Companies regularly request that applicants provide a cover letter when applying to work for them, and they often determine who to interview based on the information provided in the letters. Your cover letter allows you to highlight your relevant skills and experience, and a well-written is your first step to securing employment. Cover letters typically consist of four short paragraphs, and are no more than one page in length. A longer cover letter will likely go unread, while a shorter letter won't effectively capture a hiring manager's attention.
The first paragraph of your cover letter should briefly introduce yourself to the reader and should only be two to three sentences in length. List the reason you're writing, the position you'd like to be considered for, and mention where you heard about the job opening, if applicable. For example, "I am writing in reply to the job advertisement you posted on Career Builder seeking an experienced research assistant from the Sacramento area. I am highly interested in this opportunity to work for your company, and with a strong background in academic research, I believe I would be an ideal fit for this position."
The second paragraph is three to six sentences long, but the length depends on how much experience you have. Use this section to provide a short overview of your qualifications and tells the reader why you are the best fit for the job. List any relevant skills, experience and education you possess that relate to the requirements for the position or would benefit the company. For example, you might say "With a bachelor's degree in marketing and five years of experience in the field, I am confident I would be a valuable addition to your online marketing team. You indicated that computer skills were a requirement for this position and that you would prefer to hire a bilingual candidate. Before entering the marketing industry, I worked as a computer programmer for seven years, and am advanced in using all major computer operating systems. Additionally, I am fluent in both English and Spanish."
Focus your third paragraph on telling the reader why you are interested in working for her and demonstrate any knowledge you have about the company. For example, "I was excited to learn about an opening at Truman Home Security because of your company's reputation for creating high quality products and providing excellent customer service. After researching customer testimonials and comparing them to reviews of similar companies, I am confident your services are second-to-none, and I would welcome the opportunity to join such a dedicated team." Avoid coming across as desperate in this section, and limit it to two to three sentences that showcase your eagerness and respect for the company.
End the cover letter on a positive note by thanking the reader for his consideration and tell him that you are looking forward to his reply. Your closing paragraph doesn't need to contain anything elaborate, and should be only one or two sentences long.
If you know the name of the hiring manager who will be reading your cover letter, address it to her specifically. Make sure all of the contact information in the header of your letter is up-to-date and accurate. Type your letter on a computer and use a simple, standard font, such as Times New Roman. Print the letter on standard 8-by-11-inch paper.
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