Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writing a Cover Letter

Writing a cover letter often seems like a particularly daunting task. However, if you take it one step at a time, you'll soon be an expert at writing letters to send with your resume.

A cover letter typically accompanies each resume you send out. Your cover letter may make the difference between obtaining a job interview and having your resume ignored, so, it makes good sense to devote the necessary time and effort to writing effective cover letters.

A cover letter should complement, not duplicate your resume. Its purpose is to interpret the data-oriented, factual resume and add a personal touch. A cover letter is often your earliest written contact with a potential employer, creating a critical first impression.

There are three general types of cover letters:

  • The application letter which responds to a known job opening
  • The prospecting letter which inquires about possible positions
  • The networking letter which requests information and assistance in your job search

Your cover letter should be designed specifically for each purpose outlined above as well as for each position you seek. Do not design a form letter and send it to every potential employer (you know what you do with junk mail!).

Effective cover letters explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills or experiences (remember, relevance is determined by the employer's self-interest). They should express a high level of interest and knowledge about the position.

Next, what to include, how to format your cover letter, and following up with prospective employers.

To be effective, your cover letter should follow the basic format of a typical business letter and should address three general issues:

1. First Paragraph - Why you are writing
2. Middle Paragraphs - What you have to offer
3. Concluding Paragraph - How you will follow-up

Why You Are Writing
In some cases, you may have been referred to a potential employer by a friend or acquaintance. Be sure to mention this mutual contact, by name, up front since it is likely to encourage your reader to keep reading!

If you are writing in response to a job posting, indicate where you learned of the position and the title of the position. More importantly, express your enthusiasm and the likely match between your credentials and the position's qualifications.

If you are writing a prospecting letter a letter in which you inquire about possible job openings - state your specific job objective. Since this type of letter is unsolicited, it is even more important to capture the reader’s attention.

If you are writing a networking letter to approach an individual for information, make your request clear.

What You Have To Offer
In responding to an advertisement, refer specifically to the qualifications listed and illustrate how your particular abilities and experiences relate to the position for which you are applying. In a prospecting letter express your potential to fulfill the employer's needs rather than focus on what the employer can offer you. You can do this by giving evidence that you have researched the organization thoroughly and that you possess skills used within that organization.

Emphasize your achievements and problem-solving skills. Show how your education and work skills are transferable, and thus relevant, to the position for which you are applying.

How You Will Follow Up
Close by reiterating your interest in the job and letting the employer know how they can reach you and include your phone number and/or email address. Or bid directly for the job interview or informational interview and indicate that you will follow-up with a telephone call to set up an appointment at a mutually convenient time. Be sure to make the call within the time frame indicated.

In some instances, an employer may explicitly prohibit phone calls or you may be responding to a “blind want-ad” which precludes you from this follow-up. Unless this is the case, make your best effort to reach the organization. At the very least, you should confirm that your materials were received and that your application is complete.

If you are applying from outside the employer’s geographic area you may want to indicate if you’ll be in town during a certain time frame (this makes it easier for the employer to agree to meet with you).

In conclusion, you may indicate that your references are available on request. Also, if you have a portfolio or writing samples to support your qualifications, state their availability.

Next, let's look at the format of writing a cover letter and some samples below, plus review tips for creating cover letters that will have the maximum positive impact on employers.

Cover Letter Format (Block Letter Format)

Remember this!
* No punctuations on the Sender's & Receiver's Address, date, salutation, subject heading, complimentary close and enclosure.
* No numberings and tab to the right as everything must begin on the left margin.

Your Contact Information
City Zip Code State
Phone Number
Email Address


Employer Information
Attention to whom:
City Zip Code State

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name, (leave out if you don't have a contact)

Subject Heading (Capitalise the beginning of the Proper & Common Nouns and use small letters for preposition)
The body of your cover letter lets the employer know what position you are applying for, why the employer should select you for an interview, and how you will follow-up.

First Paragraph
The first paragraph of your letter should include information on why you are writing. Mention the position you are applying for and where you found the job listing. Include the name of a mutual contact, if you have one.

Middle Paragraph(s)
The next section of your cover letter should describe what you have to offer the employer. Mention specifically how your qualifications match the job you are applying for. Remember, you are interpreting your resume, not repeating it.

Final Paragraph
Conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow-up.

Complimentary Close

Yours faithfully ( if salutation - Dear Sir/Madam)

Yours sincerely (if salutation - Dear Ms Edwards)


Handwritten Signature (for a mailed letter)

Typed Signature


Your Full Name

Encl (no of attachments) * What do you enclosed together with this letter (Enclosure)

Sample Letter of Interest / Prospecting Letter

Your Address
Your Zip Code City State
Your Phone Number
Your Email


Attention to whom:

Human Resource
Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort
88 000 Kota Kinabalu

Dear Sir/ Madam

I read about Company X's retail management training program in College Graduate Magazine and I would like to inquire about the possibility of openings. I am interested in a career in retail management and am planning to relocate to the Kota Kinabalu area in the near future. I would be interested in learning more about the company and about available opportunities.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and Business, as well as retail experience as a Sales Associate and Key Holder. In addition, I completed two internships focusing on retail management.

My resume, which is enclosed, contains additional information on my experience and skills. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the training program with you and to provide further information on my candidacy. I can be reached anytime via my cell phone, 555-555-5555.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to speaking with you about this exciting opportunity.

Yours faithfully


Alicia Mae Edwards


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