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Cover letters accompany your resume and other job application materials. These letters serve an important purpose when you are on the job hunt: they introduce you to prospective employers. Presenting a poorly written cover letter may just keep employers from looking any further at your application or resume. Taking your time to craft a well written, succinct cover letter is vital to piquing the interests of the companies you're hoping to work for.
Contact Information & Introduction
Your cover letter should include your complete contact information including your full name, address, phone number and email. You'll also need to include the address for the prospective employer. Direct your letter to a specific person within the business or organization. This name may be given in the job advertisement. If not, call the employer or search its website to find the appropriate contact person. The goal is to make your cover letter personalized to the recipient. Your letter should start off with an introductory paragraph stating who you are and your purpose for sending the letter. Include the position title if you're responding to a specific ad.
Personalizing the Letter
Outline not only your interest in a particular position, but also your interest in the employer. Take the time to briefly research the company so that you can display to the reader that you understand its mission and objectives. Consider talking with contacts you know that currently work for the employer to get an insider's perspective. You should at least peruse the employer's website to learn more about current events within the company. You can also use this knowledge to explain how your skills and experience tie in to relevant business objectives.
Detailing Your Skills
While your resume provides information on your past work experience and credentials, the cover letter is what leads an employer to take a look at the resume. The letter should not simply rehash the same information; this is your opportunity to put a spotlight on the skills and accomplishments that will get the reader's attention. A key principle in marketing is offering benefits to your target rather than simply listing features. Highlight achievements that not only identify your capabilities but also show what you can do for the employer.
Closing the Letter
The closing of your cover letter should not be limited to simply thanking the employer for consideration. Use this final paragraph to not only invite the reader to contact you for an interview, but also to describe how you will be following up. For example, you may state that you plan to call to discuss any open positions. Following up two weeks after submitting your letter is advised, according to Virginia Tech's Career Services.
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