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Nuts and Bolts of Effective Cover Letters

As a job seeker, you shouldnít overlook the importance of a cover letter. If written strategically, a cover letter increases your chances for consideration, and provides an opportunity to highlight your individuality.

A cover letter is much more than just a letter stating, "I read the job announcement in Sundayís classified, please accept this letter as an application of interest". It is a statement that tells the reader what they can expect from you if hired.

The challenging part of writing a cover letter is determining what information to include. After all, all the juicy information was included in the resume. What could you possibly add to the cover letter that will add substance to your qualifications?

Keep in mind that the resume and cover letter have different purposes. A resume demonstrates that you can do the job, it highlights your past accomplishments, while a cover letter points out the extent to which you match the job requirements for a specific a company and how you will fit in.

A well-written cover letter gives you an advantage over your competition because it provides another opportunity to showcase your experience and qualifications.

Cover letter basics can be mastered by following the pointers below.

Sell! Sell! Sell!

A cover letter is more than just a business letter; it is a sales letter. Begin with a strong introduction, layout the benefits you offer, and establish credibility by showcasing your accomplishments.

Write as you speak.

The cover letter should have a professional conversational tone, but sound as though a real person wrote it. Many people fall in the trap of using big word to communicate their message. Instead, write in a straightforward manner that entices the reader to review the resume. The words you choose should demonstrate enthusiasm for the position, company and industry.

Write from the readerís perspective.

Action words should not be reserved for the resume. Begin each sentence with a power word. Donít use a passive voice. Avoid starting sentences with the word "I." Like the resume, the cover letterís focus is on the hiring company, and beginning too many sentences with "I" puts the spotlight too much on you.

Donít rehash your resume.

Be creative when presenting your qualifications and accomplishments. You donít want to bore the reader by simply repeating the information you included in your resume. Find different ways to communicate the same message. The best way to do this is by selecting three to five major selling points and highlighting them in the body of the cover letter. Doing so will entice the reader to do more than just glance at your resume.

Ask for an interview.

Be proactive. In the last paragraph tell the reader that you will be contacting him or her to setup a meeting time. After all, the purpose of applying for a job is to be invited in for an interview, so donít be shy, go for it.

You should use every tool at your disposal to secure an interview. Targeted cover letters add to your portfolio of qualifications and deserve as much consideration as a resume.

-Linda Matias
Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation, and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. She is President of CareerStrides and the National Resume Writersí Association. Visit her website at www.careerstrides.com or email her at careerstrides@bigfoot.com.