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4 tips for writing a successful cover letter
A cover letter is your chance to show a potential employer who you are and what you’re passionate about. Here are four tips on how to make the most of it.
Make It Personal
To make your cover letter seem more personable, it’s a good idea to address the reader directly. Try to avoid phrases like “to whom it may concern”, or other vague language. Instead, acknowledge the person you’re writing to at the very beginning of the letter.
Usually, you’ll have some idea of who’s in control of the hiring process. If you’re unsure, research! Take a look at the company directory; who’s in hiring, talent, or recruitment? These are often your first leads.
Past, Present, and Future
Dividing your personal introduction into past, present, and future sections is a good way to stay organized while talking about yourself. Start with your background; what is your level of education? Have you worked in related fields in the past? Then, discuss your present; what are you doing now? Finally, explain your long-term career goals. These segments can be very brief – even just a sentence each – and are a thorough, effective way of describing yourself professionally.
Research is Key!
An important question to address in a cover letter is why you want the job. There are many practical reasons to apply for a position; connections, experience, and, of course, to make a living. Although these are all completely valid reasons to get a job, they also apply to nearly everyone else you’re competing with. To avoid blending in with other applicants, identify specific aspects of the position or company that appeal to you. You can draw inspiration from the original job posting, or browse the company website until you find something compelling. Adding specific information shows that you’re well prepared, well researched, and genuinely excited about your potential role in a company.
Keep It Brief
It’s recommended to keep cover letters under a page, so don’t write like you’re trying to meet a word requirement. If you use clear, direct language, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’re able to get your point across. If you’re finding it difficult to communicate your point concisely, try making an outline of everything you want to say. By laying out all of the information, you may find points that don’t seem completely necessary, or that repeat something you’ve already said.
Even if you’re not currently job searching, it’s always helpful to practice writing cover letters for when the time comes. Choose a company for your “application”, and go through all the steps of researching them! Resumes are only half the solution to getting hired; if you become an expert at cover letters now, your future self will thank you.
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Also published on Professionalprograms.umbc.edu
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