A major part of the job search is crafting the right cover letter for each position you apply for, and it can be challenging to create the perfect cover letter for every position. Although it may be tempting to use a general format and just change the name of the company and position, having a customized cover letter is more polished and professional. Make it easier on yourself by starting with a template.
Your cover letter salutation should always address a specific person instead of "To Whom It May Concern." Doing your research on the company beforehand to find out the hiring manager's name makes a strong positive impression on the person who reads your letter, even if the first person to read it is not the person addressed. If there is no name in the job posting, try finding out the name of the human resources manager or department head.
The first paragraph of your cover letter should praise the company and explain why you're interested in the position. For example: "XYZ Corporation has been a leader in the technology industry for many years, and I'd be thrilled to join the team as a software programmer. I'd love to bring my experience and qualifications to your company." Once you've made your opening statement, now is a good time to discuss your relevant skills and abilities in order to connect your qualifications with the company's needs.
The next paragraph or two of your cover letter should discuss your previous positions and what kinds of skills you learned or had to utilize. "From 2001 to 2005 I worked as a senior software engineer for ABC Company. During that time, I was responsible for determining service issues and developing software solutions." It's important not to regurgitate details of your resume here. Briefly discuss what you were most responsible for in your previous positions, and be sure to explain how the skills you acquired there would be valuable to the company you're addressing.
After all the effort you've put into the body of your cover letter, it would be a shame to end it with "Thank you for your time." While this is a perfectly acceptable way to end the letter, it serves you better to personalize your conclusion in the same way you personalized your greeting. Use your ending to reiterate your strong interest in the job: "XYZ Corporation's dedication to excellent customer service has really made an impression on me, and I'd be very excited to contribute to an organization that cares so deeply about its clients." Another option for your ending is to address any potential issues the employer may have with you – your lack of experience or need to relocate, for example.
Crafting your own cover letter template takes time and creative energy, but it makes your job search easier because you have constructed a good outline for yourself. With each new job application, all you have to do is customize the wording to the specific position and industry to which you're applying. Instead of utilizing bland online cover letter templates, create your own to stand apart from the crowd.
Photo courtesy of StrikeJobs at Flickr.com
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