Cover Letter Writing Principles

  • Type each letter individually. Write a professional business letter keeping in mind the specific job that you are applying for. Use paper similar to that used for your résumé. The letter should be no longer than one page and follow proper business letter format.

  • Research the company. Show that you know something about that particular organization. Indicating that you have researched the organization shows that you are interested in the employer.

  • Write to a person. Find the name of a specific person within the organization, preferably the one who is likely to make employment decisions. Be sure to correctly spell the individual’s name and include his or her job title. Avoid mass-produced one-size-fits-all cover letters. Avoid “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern” letters.

  • Focus on the employer’s point of view. Convey your experience and skills in ways that are meaningful to the employer and relate to the employer’s position, work or field of endeavor. Address the company’s needs, concerns, and priorities.

  • Focus on solutions. Whenever applicable it is important that you present your problem-solving abilities within your cover letter. Employers do not want to read about all of the difficulties that you have faced in your education or past careers, but rather how you overcame those difficulties and what you learned from those experiences.

  • Be persuasive. Cover letters are persuasive rather than descriptive documents. Therefore, emphasize your specific and unique qualifications that are related to the job or employer.

  • Select one or two attributes. Highlight one or two of your most significant accomplishments or abilities to show that you are an above-average candidate. Selecting only one or two special attributes improves your chances of being remembered.

  • Make every word count. Use clear, crisp, and succinct language.

  • Use action verbs. Describe your previous experience and background with dynamic action verbs. By using the active voice and strong action verbs in your writing you hold the reader’s attention and convey a sense of energy.

  • Avoid a familiar tone. Be sure not to start every sentence with “I” or “My.” Ideally there should only be two or three sentences in your entire letter that begin with “I” or “My.” You should be particularly aware that this letter is a business correspondence, not a conversational piece.

  • Be specific. Use examples to convey your unique and specific qualifications rather than being “generally qualified.”

  • Use your own words. Show yourself as human, real, professional, and employable. Your individuality should be reflected in your cover letter. Be enthusiastic, conversational, and friendly.

  • Proofread and spell-check your work carefully. Your letter should be free of spelling or grammatical errors. These errors detract from your intended message and communicate that you are sloppy or unprofessional.

  • Demonstrate sincerity, energy, and enthusiasm. The cover letter is your opportunity to showcase your interest in the job and the company that you are applying to. Even though your letter is first and foremost a business correspondence, it is still extremely important that you show the employer your excitement and desire to work for their company.

  • Be honest.

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