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Put Your Best Cover Letter Forward

Writing a resume is tough work, if you do it right. So, after doing all that work, why submit an awesome resume and then write a halfhearted cover letter, or no cover letter at all?

"People who submit a cover letter along with their resume are more likely to get hired over those who don't," said Danyelle Little, Work/life Management Professional and editor-in-chief of TheCubicleChick.com.

The fact of the matter is, your cover letter may be the reason why a hiring manager will - or won't - read your resume. Here is how to grab his or her attention every single time.

Make it personal Employers are just like everyone else; they prefer personally addressed mail versus generic mail. Take time to research who, specifically, should receive your resume rather than addressing it with Dear sir or Dear madam or Dear hiring manager. You can easily find this on company websites, directories and social media sites and then pick up the phone to confirm the information is correct. Better yet, tap into your personal network so you can mention the referral in the first paragraph.

Be interesting Craft a narrative that sounds like you and that sounds like you are exactly what they need. Don't just say that your are qualified for the position, summarize how and cite two or three examples of your accomplishments and what you have to offer without re-hashing your resume. The trick is to paint a picture that makes it easy to imagine you in the job. Use the announcement as a guide and make it more about them than about you by customizing each letter to each employer.

Try a new format The typical format of three paragraphs might work, but maybe something a little more creative works better. Don't be afraid to try bullets, tell a brief story of your career evolution, use a two-column comparison to the requirements and how you meet them, or something else that shows creativity without going overboard. However, use a simple 10-12 font, no color, plenty of white space, and no longer than three quarters of a page. The point is to entice them to read the resume, so don't over complicate the language, overstate (or understate) your experience or be over-scholarly. Use strong, active language, but keep it simple and readable.

Make it error-free Proofread your cover letter and ask at least three other people to do the same. Ask one or two of them to read for content and general appeal and ask one or two eagle-eyed grammarians to check it for misspelling, typos, punctuation, grammar, etc.

Be proactive Don't leave the ball in the employer's court with Thanks for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you. Instead, state your desire for the job and request an interview. Also, mention specifically how and when you will follow up to schedule an interview and do it!


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