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Career Corner: Writing An Effective Cover Letter

What is a cover letter anyway? A cover letter is a one-page letter that introduces yourself, highlights your work experience, explains why you fit the job and requests an opportunity to meet a potential employer.

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Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 10.59.56 AMJob hunting can be exhausting. Whether it’s digging through job postings, prepping for interviews or fixing up your resume, finding a job can be downright time-consuming and demanding. With so many things to do, cover letters are easy to forget about. Your resume tells employers about you, so why waste time writing a cover letter, right? Wrong. Not including a cover letter could cost you the job.

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What is a cover letter anyway? A cover letter is a one-page letter that introduces yourself, highlights your work experience, explains why you fit the job and requests an opportunity to meet a potential employer. It provides additional information on your skills, experience and why you’re qualified for the job. A resume is a document that itemizes your employment history and summarizes information such as work history, certifications, education, etc., and a cover letter allows you to talk more in-depth about those things and how they qualify you for the job you’re applying for.

Why do employers want to see a cover letter? Because they provide a valuable framework for how employers see you. Think of it as a written “elevator pitch” – it’s your best chance to quickly grab an employer’s interest. They showcase your attention to detail, professionalism and communication skills – traits that employers are looking for.

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PUTTING YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD

How do you format it? It’s pretty similar to any other letter. At the top, include a header with your name and contact information. Beneath that, put the recipient’s name and information, and be sure to include the date.

Start your letter with a simple ­paragraph introducing yourself. Tell the reader why you’re writing, the position you’re applying for and why you’re interested in the position. Once you’ve introduced yourself, the next paragraphs should highlight your education, skills and professional accomplishments. Be sure to connect these highlights to the job you’re applying for.

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For example, let’s say that you worked at a bike repair shop during high school and are applying for an automotive technician opening. Instead of simply stating your work experience, tie the skills you learned to the new position: “In high school, I worked in a bike repair shop where I had to diagnose and repair problems hands-on. I also interacted with customers in a professional and courteous manner, and all of these skills will help me as an automotive technician at Bob’s Repair Shop.”

Once you’ve outlined your skills and qualifications for the job, finish with a closing paragraph. This should refer the reader to the attached resume and request an opportunity to meet with the employer one-on-one. Always thank the employer for considering you for the position. Last, finish with a written signature.

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So you’ve written the cover letter. Now what? Have a friend look it over for any grammatical errors. Remember, a cover letter illustrates your professionalism and basic communication skills, and a typo does not look good.

Apply! Each time you apply for a job, be sure to revisit your cover ­letter and make sure it fits. Go back and tweak anything that might have been relevant to a position you applied for last week, but not for this other one.

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