5 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter

By Brad Murrow , last updated December 1, 2011

When applying for any new position, you will need to present a professional cover letter, so these five tips for writing an effective one should prove more than helpful. Just as a resume isn’t intended to get you a job, it’s supposed to get you an interview, a cover letter shouldn’t try to get you hired either. A cover letter should intrigue a prospective employer to want to know more about you. Try to keep it simple when writing a cover letter, using a few effective paragraphs to entice your resume recipient into wanting to read more about you.

Hook your Reader

Don’t tell your reader everything about yourself in the cover letter. Your cover letter should tell the employer that you can make the company better because you have done it for others. Refer to one or two job requirements concerning the position for which you’re applying and tell the reader you’ve successfully handled these before and can do so for their business, as well.

Plan your Content First

Before you begin writing your cover letter, decide what you want to include in your letter. This will help you get to the point quickly, prevent rambling and let you hook the reader. Your first paragraph should tell the reader what position you’re applying for, allowing them to see that you’re qualified. Instead of simply writing, “I am applying for the job of administrative assistant,” write, “I understand you are seeking an administrative assistant with effective organizational skills. I believe my 11 years managing a multi-department office give me the skills and experience needed for this position.” Follow up with one or two paragraphs that give a general overview of your work history as it applies to this position. Look at the job requirements in the ad and let the reader know that you have the experience they are seeking. Finish with a strong close that lets the reiterates that you have the skills they want, and that your resume contains information about how you can help their company.

Use Short Paragraphs

Keep each paragraph two or three sentences. Limit the paragraphs to one thought. For example, you can list your specific experience in one paragraph, and a few of your major accomplishments to prove your experience in the next. The less white there is on your paper, the more it becomes an intimidating wall of copy for the reader. They want to get to your resume, and you want them to do just that. Don’t rewrite your resume or the reader will skip your cover letter and go right to your CV. Your cover letter is an opportunity to highlight the fact that you are qualified for the job. Let your resume prove it.

Use a P.S.

Many people read the P.S. at the bottom of a letter before they read the main body of the letter. A P.S. is an opportunity for you to highlight a key piece of information you want a potential employer to know. Keep it limited to one important fact.

Get the Document Right

Make sure you proof your cover letter for spelling, grammar and form. Double check the name and title of the recipient and the company name, as well as the spelling of the street address and city. Use the grammar and spell checking functions in your wordprocessing program and ask a friend to read your letter, as well.

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