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Selling Your Genius in a Cover Letter

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In the heat of the moment, many job applicants ignorantly toss together messy and ineffective cover letters, hoping to beat out the rest of the eager crowd. When applying for jobs, you should craft each cover letter as if it were an individual work of art. Taking the time to sit down and outline each cover letter properly will make better use of your time and energy—and also land you a job. With researchers estimating that 85% of submitted cover letters are flawed, it is evident that many job candidates are not taking the time to develop, organize, and proofread their letters. Read further to review the rules and ensure that you are savvy regarding what makes a compelling and persuasive cover letter.

The first order of business when crafting your cover letter is formatting it correctly. Otherwise, your reader may never even look past your heading, leaving your attempt to land a job dead in the water. In a standard business letter, the date should be in the top left-hand corner, typed out in its entirety with no abbreviations—actually, let's clear that issue up right now. Never abbreviate in a cover letter, resume, or any material that you are sending to someone who may hire you.

Follow the date with two spaces, and then list the employer's full name and his or her title, if applicable. The second address line should include the name of the company you are applying to work for. Depending on how long the address is, the third and fourth lines should contain the address of the company. Do not forget to double-check all spelling and punctuation when proofreading the employer's name and contact information.

After the address, leave two more spaces, begin your letter with "Dear," and insert the employer's name. It is standard to address the employer as "Mr." or "Ms.," but it is acceptable to use recipients' full names if you are connected with them or know them in some way. It is best to do research and find out exactly how the person likes to be addressed. Some ultra-feminists can get pretty touchy when it comes to calling them "Mrs." or "Ms.," so use discretion.

The opening paragraph in a cover letter, specifically the first sentence or two, needs to hit on the reason you are writing to the employer. Stating exactly what job you are applying for and briefly expressing how you fit the description is ideal. This is also the place to let your connections shine. If you have a relationship with someone who works with or knows the employer, milk it. Mention that in the first sentence or two, as well, stating that you were referred to the job by so-and-so. It is even helpful to conclude the first paragraph by mentioning setting up an appointment as soon as possible.

The meat of the letter, or, rather, the middle paragraphs, should focus on your experience and background and how they relate to the position at hand. Briefly correlate what you have to offer with what the company and job demand in a manner that convinces the employer to hire you. Now, to do this effectively, you will either have to know all about the company and its employees, or you will have to do a little good old-fashioned research. It is very important that you create a case and support it by listing the assets you have to give to the company. In doing this, make sure that you do not ramble on about your previous experience and positions—let your resume handle that. The cover letter is supposed to entice the potential employer to refer to your resume.

Keep in mind that a cover letter should be no longer than a page; people get bored quickly. To avoid inducing immediate boredom, it is important to keep the focus on you and the employer and/or company. Remember, every person's favorite word is his or her own name. The trick to writing the perfect cover letter is to briefly convince readers to refer to the resume, while keeping them engaged the entire time.

The closing paragraph should tie up everything you have said thus far, reiterating why you are the ideal candidate for the job, as well as inquiring about the next step. Always make a connection and ask to set up an appointment to further discuss the position, and never, ever, ever forget to thank the reader. End the letter with a simple "Sincerely" or "All the best" and leave approximately four spaces after the closing before typing your name. When signing the letter in that blank space above your typed name, it is best to use blue ink so that your signature stands out from the sea of black and white.

Hone and polish your cover letters so that you do not end up submitting dry, redundant pieces of work that will turn employers off. Organize powerful cover letters that are concise and effective, infusing them with your own personal kick.
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