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Resource: Career Advice
5 Parts of a Successful Cover Letter Formula
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Have you ever been in the middle of applying for a job and stopped to wonder, "Do I really need a cover letter?" It can almost seem contradictory to attach an additional document considering the fact that resumes are emphasized on being brief and to the point.

The purpose of a cover letter is to provide some context to your resume. You want to make a good impression, and since it's hard to do so with a cookie-cutter resume, a cover letter is a great opportunity to introduce yourself. Part of that is being able to communicate your personality well.

Cover letters are often more important than resumes. They can be the determining factor for whether the hiring manager is interested enough to go on to read your resume. A successful cover letter gets attention for your resume and makes the kind of impression that gets you an interview. A cover letter puts the personality missing from your resume on paper.

1) Address the letter to an actual person.

The recipient of a cover letter does not want to see the words, "To whom it may concern." These words are no longer relevant to today's job search. Most employers will specify the person they want the inquires directed so always be on the lookout for names. You can bet your cover letter will go into the reject pile if you do this when the right one has already been indicated. If not, then try to find out for yourself. The easiest way is to simply call the company and ask someone.

2) Check for typos and grammatical errors.

Everyone should be able to write a clear and clean cover letter. As the writer and sender you have the luxury of going back and check it as many times as you want and sending it when you think its ready. If you send a cover letter full of errors, it's apparent that you didn't put the necessary amount of time and care. Mistakes like sentences that are too long, frequent typos, and using the wrong forms or you're/your and their/they're/there are some of the top rookie mistakes. Ask a friend to look it over and make improvements based on his or her feedback.

3) Stay focused on your resume.

Mentioning things on your cover letter that are absent from your resume is not a good move. Remember that it's supposed to be an introduction, not an explanation. If there are parts of your resume that you feel work out of your favor, don't further point them out in your cover letter. It will come off as making excuses for yourself. Plus, it isn't guaranteed that your cover letter will be read rather than your resume so make sure each can be compelling on its own.

4) Make a point in each sentence.

Your cover letter should not exceed one page nor take up the entirety of one. The body of the letter should be roughly three paragraphs long, without about 4-5 sentences in each. That's not a lot of writing which means that everything you include should have a point. A cover letter still needs to have meaning despite being brief. Less is more when it comes to the application process so the key is to relay that theme in both your letter and your resume.

5) Personality Plus Professionalism

It's hard to know what the hiring manager is looking for and easy to want to please. This might tempt you to just let it all out and address the reader like a friend so that they can get to know the real you. Hold that thought. Keep in mind that the hiring manager is still a complete stranger. Coming on too strong can and will backfire. Showing personality in a professional way just means not seeming like a robot. Don't be afraid to show who you are as long as you can do it smoothly.