A well-written cover letter is like a handshake. To make a good impression it should be personable and professional. It’s your introduction to a hiring manager—a man or woman you haven’t yet met in person—but one you’d like to meet in a job interview. Therefore, it’s not a document to take lightly. It can make or break your chance to land the job of your dreams. You’ll want to include all the information necessary to catch the individual’s attention, to inspire him or her to read it through to the last line, and to comb your attached resume to see if you qualify for the job he or she hopes to fill.

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Question #1

Are you a man or a woman?

The ten cover letter tips listed here will help you do just that.

Read them carefully, apply what you learn and make your cover letter stand out from the crowd.

Cover Letter Tip #1: Write to the ‘right’ person.

Send your cover letter to the correct person. In other words, avoid addressing an individual as Dear Sir or Madam, or To Whom it May Concern, or Dear Hiring Manager. Take a moment to call the company and find out the name of the current hiring manager. And if you have a name already, verify that that person is still employed with the company. Ask for the correct spelling, as well. For example, the name Smith can also be spelled Smythe. The name Robin or René is used by both genders, so be sure to check out that detail too.

The more specific you are, the better chance you have of reaching the person who can help you the most, the one in charge of hiring someone for the position you’re seeking. Get off on the right foot by writing to the right person!

Cover Letter Tip #2: Start with a great introduction

A first impression matters – both in person and in print. So open your cover letter by grabbing the hiring manager’s attention immediately. This is not the place to say, “I have worked in sales for five years and therefore, feel that I could do a good job of filling the opening at your company for a sales director.” This type of writing lacks energy and may only motivate your reader to toss the letter into the round file and move on to the next one.

Instead, get to the business at hand. Let the hiring manager know why and how you are the one to fill the position listed online or on a job board. Try something like this: “With five years as the leading sales person at ABC Company in Any City, I am now ready to step into management and believe I’m a good fit for the position of sales manager that you listed on GetAJob.com.”

A hiring manager will then see you as the confident and self-assured person you are and will more likely want to meet with you in person.

Cover Letter Tip #3: Simplify, simplify!

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, former president of the United States, once said the
following regarding speakers: Be sincere; be brief; be seated. Perhaps the same, with a small modification, could be said of cover letter writers: Be sincere; be brief; be finished. In other words, get right to the point and then close.
Limit your cover letter to one page or less. Stick to the facts that apply to the job in question. Indicate your qualifications, experience, and interest in the opening. Avoid gobbledygook in your writing—such as buzzwords and professional jargon that some people may not be familiar with.

And of course stay away from any personal references or attempts to be funny or ‘cute.’ Keep in mind that your cover letter is like a handshake. It’s the hiring manager’s first contact with you. Make it a friendly, professional, and positive one.

Cover Letter Tip #4: Present your best.

Help your reader move through your cover letter with ease. Avoid colored stationery. Select good-quality white paper and use the same font and type size for your letter as for your resume. Keep in mind that a solid block of text can be overwhelming. Break up your cover letter with short paragraphs and lots of white space.

Consider your reader – the hiring manager who is inundated with dozens of cover letters a week. He or she is more likely to pay attention to your letter if you submit a visually appealing document that allows for easy reading and a quick assessment of your qualifications for the job. You want to help him or her get to a final decision as soon as possible. And you want that decision to be in your favor.

Cover Letter Tip #5: Consider the company.

What can you do to help the company increase revenue, work more effectively with employees, and deliver efficient customer service? You must grab the employer’s attention within one to three seconds or you risk your cover letter going into the shredder. So don’t squander even one word on unnecessary communication. Make it clear that you raised profits at your former place of employment by such and such number of dollars, or that you expanded your customer base by training new employees to open additional territories, using a proven technique, or delivered a program or new idea to management that resulted in thus and so.

In other words, present tangible evidence of what you did to improve your value to the former company. Then focus on what you can do for the new organization that would build momentum and increase revenue, as well as relieve management of stress over maintaining the bottom line.

Cover Letter Tip #6: Edit and proofread.

Never send a cover letter that you haven’t thoroughly edited and proofread for punctuation, spelling, and usage errors. As the best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins has said, “Everyone needs an editor.” He’s right. Everyone does. None of us is above making grammatical mistakes.

When it comes to cover letters, you’ll want yours to be clean, clear, and easy to read. Therefore, if necessary, hire a professional to go over your writing, to correct errors, and to point out where and how you can communicate more effectively so the hiring manager will read your cover letter with enthusiasm and want to call you for an interview.

Cover Letter Tip #7: Be honest and straightforward.

People can see through pretense to the real you so you might as well be real right from the start. Show the hiring manager who you are in terms of your talent and ability to do the job he or she wants to fill. Let him or her know how your accomplishments and titles from previous employment can benefit the new company. In other words, what can you do that will help the organization increase its bottom line? Imagine the interviewer asking you this question. “What can you bring to this job that will help my company grow and prosper?” Then answer it in your own words based on your experience. Make that clear in your cover letter. That’s the kind of information that will help your cover letter stand out from the rest and inspire the hiring manager to call you for an interview.

Cover Letter Tip #8: Avoid exaggeration.

Some job seekers are so desperate to land a position they will exaggerate (even lie) in order to get an interview. Honesty is and always has been the best policy when it comes to any area of life, and that’s true of writing cover letters, as well. If you were an assistant manager at a retail store, don’t say you managed the store. If you received a customer service award, mention that but don’t blow it up to be something bigger than it is—such as ‘All Star’ or ‘Pacesetter.’

Hiring managers don’t necessarily believe everything they see on paper. They check references. They ask questions. They look into a person’s background. Think about your answers if queries come your way that you cannot answer adequately. There are plenty of jobs out there, including the ideal one for you at this season of your career. You don’t have to be dishonest to get it.

Commit yourself to displaying your talent and skills truthfully and with enthusiasm. Show the interviewer who you are and then you won’t have anything to hide from or be afraid of.

Cover Letter Tip #9: Ask for what you want – an interview.

A cover letter is the place for you to share your skills and accomplishments and your ability to take on the new job. It is also an opportunity to ask for what you want—an interview for the job you’re seeking. Be sure to include that question before you close the letter and sign your name. Make it easy on the hiring manager by stating that you are available to speak in person at a time and date that is convenient for him or her.

Keep in mind that company representatives are busy people. They receive hundreds of cover letters a month—maybe more. Your letter must stand on its own, drawing attention to you and your ability in a way that motivates an interviewer to call you for a meeting.

Therefore, a question is totally appropriate. May I come in for an interview? or I look forward to meeting you in person. Do you have time next week for me to stop by your office? Name the hour and date and I’ll be there. Such direct communication presented in a polite and professional way will motivate the hiring manager to respond favorably.

Cover Letter Tip #10: Follow up with a thank you note.

Everyone appreciates the words ‘thank you.’ Most people don’t hear them often enough. Of all the correspondence you share with business associates, colleagues and hiring managers, your notes of appreciation for what they’ve done for you are among the most important.

Therefore, be sure to follow up your cover letter and résumé with a letter, e-mail or phone call that expresses your gratitude for the time the hiring manager spent reading your submission. Never just sit back and wait for a response. Take the initiative. Be pro-active. Not only will you be remembered for your thoughtful gesture but also you’ll stand out from the crowd of people who are more concerned with what they can get than with what they can give.