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The Anatomy of a Cover Letter

A cover letter starts off in standard letter-writing style with the date and the inside address at the left margin. A sample cover letter is shown below so that you can see how the page is properly formatted. Note the greeting,
Dear Hiring Manager:
which is much preferred over “To Whom It May Concern,” but not as good as addressing a person by name.

The body of the cover letter is generally 3-5 paragraphs in length. The first paragraph is introductory. Its goal is to identify you as a person seeking employment for a specific type of job. If appropriate, this is the place to mention that you have been referred to this employer by a mutual acquaintance.

In the next one, two, or three paragraphs, tell your reader why you should be selected for an interview. What skills do you possess that are important for this type of work? What personality traits do you possess that dovetail with the demands of this position? What schooling or professional training have you acquired which give you the knowledge this job requires? These are just some ideas. Think hard about what makes you a great applicant and share it. As you tie your credentials back to this organization’s particular needs, it becomes immediately obvious that your cover letter is a custom communication that took some effort. (Employers like to see effort!)

While you are writing all of this, keep in mind that what you share needs to be new and fresh, don’t repeat what is already stated on your résumé. This is often the biggest challenge of writing a great cover letter. Another challenge is getting the tone of the letter right. Strive for a confident but not pretentious voice.

Close the letter with a final paragraph that requests a meeting or interview. If you are willing and able to call as a follow-up to your résumé, indicate that you will do so. If not, close the letter by thanking the reader for their consideration and stating that you look forward to hearing from them. End your letter with “Sincerely,” “Cordially,” or “Yours truly,” and sign your name with pride (or digitally sign it, or just type it, if you are sending electronically).

Sample Cover Letter

Date

Name, Title
Street Address
City, State Zip

Dear Hiring Manager:

I am writing to introduce myself as a candidate for a senior marketing manager position with your company. I have substantial experience and a solid employment history, which includes promotions during my tenure with two global businesses.

My experience encompasses the full range of duties typical of a marketing professional including special events planning, budget management, website communications, incentive campaigns, sales promotions, and ad campaign management. As I have worked hard to distinguish myself. I am proud of the special assignments that have come with this recognition, which include addressing audiences at international trade shows and participation on the Executive Council for Corporate Innovation. Furthermore, my ability to exercise leadership on co-branding projects has also been acknowledged by senior management at several of the company’s subsidiaries.

For your review, I include my résumé. The opportunity to speak with you to discuss my qualifications in further detail would be appreciated. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Your Name Here

Enclosure: Résumé

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