Job hunt study guide: Tips for writing a cover letter

Before you know it, school will be over and it will be time to get serious about the future. Today’s job market is challenging for people of all experience levels, especially recent college grads. Searching for work can feel like a full-time job itself, and a good job hunting study guide will start you out on the right foot. Try these tips for writing an effective cover letter that may win you an interview for your dream job.

Cover letter components

Writing your cover letter is not a process you want to throw together in a few minutes before sending off your resume. Finding a source that can serve as your study guide can be an immense help. For this, look no farther than Questia, the world’s largest online library with thousands of full-text books, magazines, journals, and newspapers from around the world. Questia offers several resources that can help, including Resumes for First-Time Job Hunters: With Sample Cover Letters. Chapter 4 is all about writing a great cover letter, including eight must-have sections:

  1. Your name and address
  2. The date
  3. The name and address of the person/company you are applying to
  4. A greeting, preferably with the person’s last name (if you don’t have a name, use “To Whom It May Concern”)
  5. A paragraph explaining your reason for writing and what job you are interested in
  6. One to two paragraphs that explain your qualifications and any details about the company (this shows you have researched them)
  7. A final paragraph that closes the letter and tells the person how to contact you
  8. A closing with your signature

The book provides several sample cover letters in chapter 6, starting on page 149.

An opportunity to shine

So, you’ve got the basics of a cover letter under your belt, but how can you make your letter stand out from the crowd? The key is writing a cover letter that tells the company why you are perfect for the job without repeating your resume or going overboard. The website, Business Insider, featured this February 18, 2012 post by Vivian Giang titled “7 Steps To Writing a Cover Letter That Will Actually Get You An Interview.”

Key points Giang focused on that you need to remember are:

  • Focus on your skills: match the requirements the company is looking for with the skills you have that meet those requirements
  • Do your research: find out the name of the hiring person and use it. Also show that you know something about the company’s goals
  • Keep it to one page: a great cover letter is a concise cover letter
  • Take action: close by saying what you will do next (for example, follow up next week)

Social media vs. the cover letter

Maybe you think cover letters and resumes are too old school because of social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Social media has certainly changed the way employers seek out and interview potential employees, but it hasn’t made writing a cover letter unnecessary.

Curt Finch wrote a post on February 11, 2012 for Mashable.com titled, “How Social Media Can Help You Snag Top Talent For Your Company,” and discussed the fact that traditional methods of hiring are still important.

“According to a study by the workplace psychologist group OPP, 39% of leaders said they still rely on gut instinct when making hiring decisions, and a quarter admitted that whether they liked someone personally was a major influence,” Finch wrote. “These findings demonstrate that traditional hiring metrics, including quality of the cover letter and interview, compete in importance with the personal preferences of the hiring manager.”

Landing that first job is a big accomplishment. Being prepared with a study guide that walks you through writing a great cover letter can help you reach that goal. Keep your letter brief, make it personal for each job, and proofread, proofread, proofread. That’s how you will impress the employer.

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  1. [...] Job competition may be fierce, but a little hard work can go a long way.  For advice on how to get started on your cover letter, check out our recent blog post, “Job hunt study guide: Tips for writing a cover letter.” [...]

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