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Make Your Cover Letter Count in a Competitive Job Market

Today’s primary modes of communication are e-mail, text messages, and web pages. The job search process is no different. Most job searches are done on the Internet, and job seekers e-mail their resumes or complete online applications.

Given these facts: Are cover letters still necessary?

While the answer varies, the majority of human resource representatives and recruiters say yes. Done the right way, a cover letter can capture the second glance needed in a competitive job market.

There are two tips for crafting a catchy cover letter: follow the formula and personalize it.

Tip #1: Follow the formula

Cover letters contain four components with one essential question answered in each.

Paragraph One – Introduction

Who are you and why are you writing?

Paragraph Two – Highlight of Qualifications

How has your education, previous employment, or other experiences repared you for the position?

Paragraph Three – Connection to the Company

Why is this company or job a good fit for you?

Paragraph Four – Closing Statement

How interested are you and where can you be reached for an interview?

Tip #2: Personalize it

Paragraphs one and four follow standard formats. The opportunity for your application to connect with a recruiter is in paragraphs two and three.

Paragraph Two: Draw attention to yourself

When you read the job description and you declared, “I’m perfect for this job!” Tell the recruiter why. Is it because of a particular course you studied? Did you complete an internship that allowed you to perform similar duties and responsibilities? Were you able to develop a skill set through a part-time job or campus activity that is applicable to this position?

Make the connection between your past and this job. Don’t repeat your resume, but rather make reference to items on it that you especially want the recruiter to be aware of.

Paragraph Three: “Professional Flattery”

Your job search will reveal many positions for which you are qualified, but not all of them are of interest. What makes this position or company different? Pinpoint specifics about the job description that catch your eye. Research the organization. If the company product or workplace philosophy is appealing, tell the recruiter why.

Avoid empty compliments. Recruiters can spot meaningless sweet talk a mile away.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Applicants sometimes forget professionalism, and even common sense, when it comes to e-mailing and the job search. If your e-mail contains any of the following, hit the delete button.

  • A risqué e-mail address. Use a basic e-mail address comprised of your name, initials, or something similar. Save or for corresponding with friends.
  • Greeting the recruiter by their first name. If you know the recruiter’s name, don’t forget that Mr. or Ms. is still necessary. Just because Ms. Jane Doe lists her first name doesn’t mean you can call her Jane.
  • A salutation that doesn’t begin with “Dear.” This is a business letter. Beginning the correspondence with “Greetings,” “Hello,” or “Hi There!” is not acceptable.
  • Emoticons. 8-) :-( ;-) Emoticons are used to convey attitudes or emotions, both of which are irrelevant in a cover letter.
  • Acronyms. LOL, COB, FAQs. As with emoticons, acronyms have no place in job-search correspondence, unless they are standard acronyms, such as that used for a company or association. For example: NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) is appropriate. “The 411 about NACE is very positive” is not.
by Kelli Robinson - Career and Internship Center and job-search advice for the new college graduate

Top 5 Tips For Creating a Winning Cover Letter

Cover letters can be a powerful way to add a compelling narrative about your skills to your job application, but like all things career-related, they need to be done effectively.

A cover letter should never be an afterthought. The goal is for your cover letter to enhance your chances of getting an interview, but when done incorrectly, they have the exact opposite effect!

Top 5 tips for creating a winning cover letter

A Cover Letter... What's That?

A cover letter is your face to the company. It is addressed to a person at the company when possible and always accompanies your résumé.  It is an opportunity to let your potential employer know more about you than just what is on the résumé.

Use the cover letter to express yourself, your passion for working at the company, and as an example of your writing skills. You want to reflect on how your skills and experiences match the needs and interests of your potential employer, as well as the requirements for the position. Always send a cover letter with your résumé - even if the job description does not specifically say to.

Things to keep in mind as you write a cover letter

  • Research the company of interest.  Find out about the services offered and the logistics of the job so that you can  tailor your letter to that position and company.
  • Focus on what you can do for the employer, not how this job will benefit you as an employee. What makes you stand out from other applicants?
  • The desired length of a cover letter should be one page. You may consider using the same heading on your cover letter as you did on your resume for consistency and style. This can help you stand out in the crowd.
  • Font size should be 10-12 point in Arial or Times New Roman font type consistent with style used on your résumé.
  • Salary Requirements: Visit the Career and Internship Center to review nationwide average salary data for new graduates if you are asked to include this in your cover letter.
  • Print your cover letter on the same bond paper that you used for your résumé.
  • Don't forget to sign your name at the end. Make sure to use either blue or black ink.
  • Neatness counts! Proof well for typing or grammar errors and use only clean copies of your cover letter.

The staff in the Career and Internship Center are happy to provide assistance as you develop your cover letter and provide critical review as needed.  Contact us!

Cover Letter Format Outline

Your Address
City, State, Zip Code


Name of Individual
Title of Individual
Name of Organization
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Ms. / Mr. / Dr.________:

Opening Paragraph: Attract attention.  Clearly state the reason for writing; name the position or type of work you are applying for.  Identify how you heard about the opening, or how the employer’s name was obtained (i.e., Albion College Career and Internship Center; Professor Smith in the English Department at Albion College; etc.).  Introduce your themes.

Second and Third Paragraphs: Outline your strongest qualifications that match the position requirements based on the themes you selected.  As much as possible, provide evidence of your related experiences and accomplishments.  Describe what you can do for the employer, rather than what they can do for you.  Point out your specific achievements and unique qualifications that are relevant to the position.  Try not to state information using the same words you used in the resume.

Fourth Paragraph: Suggest an action plan.  Make reference to your enclosed resume and restate your interest by indicating your availability for a personal interview.  Either suggest a time or state your willingness to come at the convenience of the individual employer.

Fifth Paragraph:  Express appreciation to the reader for his or her time and consideration.



Full Name



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