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U.S. Living & Working

How to write a cover letter

...but take your time when writing it, review the ad you are referring to and make sure your cover letter focuses on the exact requirements.

The Internet is a vast resource for finding information about "How to write a cover letter" - anyhow, you easily get the feel that you get buried under rules and nothing but rules.
Recruiters tell horror stories about what you 'shouldn't do ever' and that some of them literally 'scan' your cover letter for only 5-20 seconds with their experienced eyes and decide whether you're worth to be looked at or not. That sounds horrible! Well, your cover letter is indeed your introduction and provides the first impression. But keep in mind: someone may be applies as a craftsman and therefore he's not a writer!

What I want to say is that a professional recruiter will always examine your skill set and your work history and reading the cover letter is just a prologue.

A resume is what really defines you; a cover letter is your first impression, your introduction, so it is common sense that it must look proper, neat, and straight. You would also choose your outfit carefully when having an interview; your style tells the employer something about you - so does your cover letter, but just in a 'remote' way.

Focus on politeness, keep your information concise, refer to the requirements of the job offer, showcase your most important qualifications, and give a brief statement, why you are the right person for the job.
Write your letter with a modern word processor because most of them detect typos, misspellings easily.

The more concise your letter the better - you don't write a novel. Make statements, don't give long explanations, because your background can be seen in your resume. Be self-conscious, not arrogant.

Some formalism of a letter:

Put YOUR NAME and contact info in the top left or right corner or in the middle. The latter is not a straight business style, but anyway...
DATE (left or right side): Either November 23, 2010 or for foreign companies use the international form: 23 November 2010

Attn.: [Name of your contact; to whom you're writing]
ADDRESS block of the company

[optional: a subject (reference)line:] position name, e.g. Graphic Designer (seen on abc123jobdatabase.com) OR Lead Architect (New York Times Job Market)

Salutation: Dear Madam/Sir: if you don't know a name, otherwise it's strongly recommended to use the name: Dear Mr. Miller:
Now you'll say: The anonymous form is: Dear Sir/Madam: not vice versa. That might be the traditional form but anyhow not the polite form. A lady comes always first and any gentleman you feels offended by reading 'Madam' first and then 'Sir' has certainly something misunderstood in his past. But it's about you, so feel free to use the traditional form if you think it's more appropriate.

NOW, without further ado, the sections of the letter body:

[Section 1]
Start your letter right way with your introduction: tell briefly who you are, what you're currently doing, and why you are responding to the job offer. This is the first section of your letter. Use paragraphs and make it easy to read. This makes not more than 3-4 sentences.
And: these are the first seconds of reading, so make it interesting! Arouse curiosity! Bear in mind that you just touch on the subject, the facts are in your résumé or will be discussed during an interview. You will have plenty of time to tell them what makes you interested in the company and what all you have learned about it and so on.
You may mention in this section where you heard about the job offer but this is definitely no criteria whether you as a person are the right fit or not, so if you feel your letter gets to long, better leave it away.
If you don't respond to a concrete job offer, you should state with one sentence why you choose this company, why their company seems to be especially interesting to you.

[Section 2]
While having in mind what the job requirements are, write a few sentences what your qualification is, in how far you fulfill the requirements.
That is exactly what should establish the distinction from others. In first place mention your qualification regarding what they look for. If appropriate and you think it's important, state in what other disciplines you are absolutely top. specially when these talents might be a helpful for the job.

[Section 3]
Some say that this is the section where you say some nice things about the company, how great they are, blahblahblah. Personally I am thinking this is nonsense, since you wouldn't write them if you can't stand them and besides, a reader would immediately recognize this a one of these 'template' paragraphs, that really say nothing about you.
IF you're applying for a position that asks for exemplary leadership type, or where you would see yourself in some kind of pioneer role... then explain briefly what your vision is, why this company is the one you want to work for.

[Closing section]
Something like:
I am looking forward to talk to you in person and will contact you in a couple of days by email. I am reachable at phone: 123-456-6789 or via email: abc@YourDomain.ccc

Sincerely,

---your signature---

Jeff Samuel ApplicatsLastname

Enclosed: resume

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