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7 tips for a stellar cover letter

Updated on June 5, 2012

Career Counselor, Ebony Hogan.

By Leslie A. Panfil

A strong cover letter is like a firm handshake. When done well, it makes the right first impression. A well crafted cover letter encourages the reader to continue on and establishes you as an outstanding candidate. Career Counselor, Ebony Hogan, shares 7 tips for a more successful cover letter.

1. No means – no. “A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management showed that while most resumes are accompanied by a cover letter, HR professionals are split on its importance,” said Hogan. “If an employer strictly specifies that they do not want a cover letter, it is important that you demonstrate that you are capable of following instructions.”

2. Not a carbon copy. The purpose of a cover letter is to interpret your resume. It should compliment rather than a duplicate the information found in your resume. “A productive cover letter introduces yourself, explains your qualifications, demonstrates your knowledge of the company and compels the employer to review your resume,” said Hogan.

3. Get to the point. “Potential employers spend less than one minute reading a cover letter. It is important that you get to the point.”

4. High tech #1. Studies have also shown that employers prefer to receive cover letters and resumes through email. “Be sure that your cover letter and resume contain all of your contact information including your associations such as Linkedin,” recommended Hogan.

5. Address it. “Salutations can be confusing,” said Hogan. “Always use a name if you have one. It is worth the extra time and effort to research a specific contact name. If despite your best efforts you are unable to secure a name, a general salutation such as: Dear Sir or Madam, is better than no salutation at all.”

6. How much? Salary history and requirements can be a slippery slope. “It is important to be honest about your salary history. Your salary history is something that can be verified,” cautioned Hogan. “Your salary requirement is a place where you can be more flexible. It is perfectly acceptable to give a broad range including something less than what you have made previously. In today’s job market it is not uncommon for individuals to be making less than they have made in the past. Keeping your requirements flexible allows you to factor in such things as health care benefits, bonus pay and vacation time which are not usually discussed until later in the interviewing process. You may be willing to accept a lower base salary after learning all the company has to offer.”

7. Breathing new life. In addition to the resume cover letter Hogan recommends mastering the Resurrection Letter. This type of letter informs the prospective employer of your continued interest in the job you applied for and reminds them of your qualifications for the job. “This type of letter is used when several weeks have passed since you applied for a job or an inquiry cover letter was sent without any response,” explained Hogan. “You may also want to consider this option when your job search has slowed down.”

Ebony Hogan is a career counselor with the Cuyahoga County Public Library System, Cleveland, Ohio.


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    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Well-sourced and most informative. Many job-seekers are afraid of writing a cover letter, so articles like this will surely be helpful.