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How to write an impressive cover letter

Last updated on: August 06, 2014 19:45 IST

How to write an impressive cover letter

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Varun Deshpande, TopTalent.in

You can only say so much in your CV. If you want to impress the recruiter, you must invest in a well written cover letter.

I've seen a lot written lately questioning the importance of cover letters.

Some experts go so far as to say including a cover letter is detrimental.

I say 'No! Not at all'.

Today, I am going to deal with the finer details of writing a cover letter and tell you why exactly a covering letter can in fact improve your chances of getting that job.

Attention to detail…

This is one of the most important aspects of any resume or cover letter.

If you're fortunate enough to have someone actually read your cover letter, it is imperative that it has no mistakes.

I shouldn't have to say it, but I will, address the cover letter as if your job depended on it -- it might.

The cover letter needs to be professionally written and addressed. Below is a standard format.

Date
Your name
Your address
Your city, state, zip code
Your phone number
Your e-mail

Name
Title
Company/organisation
Address
City, state, zip code

Dear Mr/Ms Last Name

(Job Application Content)

Your signature

Courtesy

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Image: Writing the cover letter is an art. Do you know how to get it right?
Photographs: Creative Commons

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Do your research

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Many job descriptions or online listings don't provide the name of the person who will be screening the resume.

Quite often all they list is 'admin' or they instruct you to send it to a generic address such as 'hr@xyzcompany.com'.

If that’s the case, you have work to do.

The easiest way is often the direct approach -- call the company and ask who the recruiting manager is.

Nine times out of ten, the receptionist will give you the answer.

Be sure you get the correct spelling of the person's name as well as her/his title. And please double check.

Letters often sound alike on the phone, so an 's' can be mistaken for an 'f', or a 'b' confused with 'v'.

When you feel you have the correct name, check again.

Go to LinkedIn and verify the name and title.

If they're not on LinkedIn, try the company website, assuming the person is at a high enough level to be listed.

This step is crucial because, not much will earn you a red flag faster than addressing the resume or cover letter to the wrong person, or to the right person with their name spelt wrong.

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Image: Research the company and address the application to the hiring manager.
Photographs: Kshitij Anand/Reuters
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Say it in three sections

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Your cover letter should be brief, but not too brief.

Half a page is probably not enough, but one page should be all you need, because you're only going to have three sections.

That's right -- three!

The introduction and the close should be kept to one short paragraph.

The 'sell section' you can expand.

This is the persuasive part of the letter. This is where you 'sell' your skills, talents and achievements.

And that's not all.

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Image: Keep it it brief and under one page.
Photographs: Kshitij Anand/Reuters
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What not to do in your cover letter

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Meanwhile, here are a few things you must absolutely avoid putting in your application:

  • Never say you're the best candidate for the job, or that you're the ideal candidate. You can’t know that.
  • Do not repeat the experience listed on your resume. Surprise them with something new.
  • Do not write a casual letter or try to be 'cutesy'. That's a quick trip to the trashcan. When it comes to business writing, you can't go wrong with formal.
  • Do not bring up personal topics unless it is absolutely supportive of your candidacy for the position.

Image: It is important not to sound desperate while applying for the job.
Photographs: Kieran Doherty/Reuters
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