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Writing Great Cover Letters

Cover letters are an essential ingredient to your complete résumé package. This is the best opportunity for you to demonstrate your personal character, knowledge of the company and your business writing skills.

The following is a relatively generic format for creating your cover letter. Note that most cover letters are designed to target a specific company or at least a specific industry.

First Paragraph

You must spark the employer's interest. Focus on your unique characteristics, whether they are based on experience or personal traits that will benefit the company. Don't simply restate your résumé objective statement. You must command attention, not simply alert the employer that you are applying for a position (they already know that!).

Second Paragraph

Provide more detail about your professional qualifications or relevant educational background. Highlight your professional accomplishments and/or achievements, not responsibilities. Use active verbs when describing things that you have done and back it up with a statistic or concrete fact when possible. Tailor this paragraph to the position that you are applying for.

Third Paragraph

Demonstrate knowledge of the company, their industry, and the challenges that they may be facing. This is where you connect what the company needs in an employee and the skills that you bring to the table. You want to implicitly show your knowledge of the company without regurgitating something you read on the company's website. Alluding to general industry trends that are affecting the company will let the employer know that you can see the big picture and how your position affects the company's strategy.

Fourth Paragraph

This is the final paragraph of most cover letters. You should demonstrate your confidence and enthusiasm in working at the organization. Be sure to include a call to action, requesting an appointment with the decision maker (using the word appointment over the word interview helps make you sound more confident and professional). It is also recommended that you alert the employer that you will follow up with them, usually one week after sending your résumé package.

John Williamson is a Career Development specialist and a spokesperson for Vision-Resume.com

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