Whether to write a cover letter or not will be debated forever. Some people read them, some don't. A lot of people say don't bother. But how do you know if a potential employer wants to see one? Ans: Be ready.
To make cover letters stand out, consider doing the following things:
It's a business letter so write it like one. Include a letterhead. A good one might be the top of your resume, name and contact information.
Follow that with the date, hiring manager's name and title, company name, city and state, and a subject line with the exact title of the position you are seeking.
Open by addressing it to the hiring manager by name. Avoid being impersonal. No one's name is "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam".
Make the opening paragraph unique. Reference an important need required for the job and very briefly say why you meet the need. (If you have already spoken to the hiring manager as I suggest to all job seekers, think about how easy the opening paragraph becomes. You simply reiterate what was discussed in the conversation.)
Then tell them it is important that you meet, don't just ask for an interview. After all, you have explained why you are the right person for the job. 'Asking' for an interview is similar to 'begging' for one. 'Telling' them is just the logical outcome of why you should meet.
Next add a few bullet statements about your major achievements and don't copy and paste from your resume. Summarize them to continue to build interest.
Follow with a paragraph that aligns you with them, something of interest to them that you have in common from your research about the company to establish rapport.
Next set their expectations. Tell them you will follow up in a week (and then do it). Don't sit around a week from now wondering why you haven't heard and if you should 'bug' them.
Finally, don't forget to thank them and sign your name.
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