Cover Letters

Know How for Cover Letters
- - - Paper
- - - Ink
- - - Margins
- - - Spellcheck
- - - People and firm names
- - - Language
- - - Original
- - - Letterhead
- - - Date
- - - Contact information
- - - Signature
- - - Delivery
- - - Letter styles
. . . . . . . . Block Style
. . . . . . . . Modified Block Style
. . . . . . . . Modified Block with Indented Paragraphs Style
Contents of Cover Letters
- - - Your address
- - - Date line
- - - Letter address
- - - Salutation
- - - Subject line
- - - Body
- - - Complimentary close
- - - Written signature
- - - Typed signature
 

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Know How For Cover Letters

A cover letter, or letter of application, will rarely get you a job. It's main purpose is to get you an interview with the employer. If you have attached a resume, then the purpose of the letter is to get the employer to want to look at your resume while the pupose of the whole package (letter and resume) is to get you an interview. It must indicate that you are worth the time and trouble of an interview. Thus, it is important to invest a lot of care into how you write the letter.

Use good quality 81/2 X 11" (letter size) white paper. If you absolutely must have it stand out in some way use good quality white paper slightly heavier (28lb instead of 20lb) than normal. If you feel you must use a colour, use light grey or beige. If you wish to stand out in some way, do it through your interest shown by regularly contacting the employer regarding employment, preferably in person. Print only on one side. It should be printed from your computer unless you are answering an ad that specifically asks for a hand written letter. Use the best printer available. Do not exceed one page computer printed or two pages if hand written. Keep it brief and to the point.

Print in black ink only. If handwriting, use blue or black ink. If you make a mistake, do it over. Never handwrite in pencil.

Leave one inch margins on the sides of the paper. Leave at least one inch margins at the top and bottom; if there is more room left then center the text from top to bottom. Space the text so that it looks neat and is easy to read.

Check very carefully for errors in spelling. Do not only rely on the spell checking in your computer program because it will not pick up errors which are also proper words (such as 'works' instead of 'words' or 'manger' instead of 'manager'). Also carefully check grammar and punctuation. After you are sure you have it perfect have someone else check it and be prepared to make changes!

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Carefully check the spelling of the name (and title) of the person the letter is going to and the name of the organization. Check the job posting first and phone books are handy for this; if the information is not listed, a call to the receptionist to enquire who the application should be directed to is in order.

Use simple and direct language. Let your letter reflect your personality, but avoid appearing too pushy, overbearing, familiar, or humourous. The letter is the first sample of your work that the employer will see and they will form opinions about your attitudes and abilities based on the letter. Make sure that your sentences do not all begin with the pronoun "I". If you have a lot of sentences that begin that way, try to put in transitions such as "Also", "However", "In addition", etc for some of the sentences. Do not mention salary - leave that for the interview.

Letters must be original and have an original signature. No photocopies. If you want your best chance with the employer then the employer must feel that their job is important enough to you that you wrote a letter just for them. A computer is wonderful to use as you can save the letter and use it as a base for next time. Always review the letter for each job you use it to ensure that the content is appropriate; change the letter as necessary to fit each job. Slant the content to show how your skills and experience relate to the particular job you are applying for.

Never use printed letterhead of any type. The letter is from you, not from a business etc. Using the computer to produce personal letterhead for cover letters is showy and should be avoided. Stick to standard personal business letter format.

Always date your letter. Deliver or mail it right away so the date is current.

Include your address and telephone number so it is easy for the employer to know how to contact you.

The letter should be signed in such a way that the employer can make out your name. When the letter is typed leave four blank lines after your complimentary closing (Yours truly, etc) then type your name; sign in between the two. When the letter is hand written, leave space after your complimentary closing then print your name and sign in between the two.

If possible, hand deliver the letter so that you know it gets there in a timely manner. Letters in answer to an ad should be sent as soon as possible ensuring adequate mailing time before closing dates. If the letter is sent when no job is currently posted, try to time the mail so that it arrives mid-week. Avoiding Mondays, Fridays, weekends and the day after holidays will help ensure that the person responsible for hiring will be at work and have the time to review your application.

There are three styles (layout on the page) of personal business letter. The links in the sentences will take you to sample letters. They are block, modified block, and modified block with indented paragraphs. Block style is the easiest to use, the cleanest looking and now the most commonly used; it is done with everything lined up on the left. The modified block has your address, the date line, and the closing at the center and everything else on the left. The modified block with indented paragraphs is the modified block with the first line of each paragraph indented five spaces.

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Contents of Cover Letters

Your name
and
Address

Date

Exact name and title of the person who is to receive the letter
Company / organization name
and
Address

Dear (Mr. or Ms. as appropriate) (add person's last name):

Re: Title of the Position You Are Applying For (include competition number if there is one)

First Paragraph: State the job you are applying for and mention how you heard about it. Be sure to apply for a specific job not just "anything". If someone in the company, or known to the person hiring, is referring you, be sure to mention their name to make the link. Word things in such a way to indicate that you know a little about what the company is doing and in such a way that the employer wishes to read on.

Second Paragraph: Highlight skills and experience that you have that relate to the job you are applying for. Refer the employer to your resume for details. Use action words to make it interesting. Show how the employer will benefit from hiring you and how you fit the job. If you are answering an ad, indicate how you meet all the requirements posted in the ad. Do not ask for a job based on your need. Think what information the employer will want to know and provide it.

Third Paragraph: Politely request an interview and indicate you are prepared to meet at the employer's convenience. Provide a telephone number where you can be reached. It is also good manners to indicate if a message can be left at that number or provide a second number for messages. Thank the employer for their time and consideration.

Complimentary closing (Yours truly, Sincerely, etc)

(sign your name here)

Your name (typed, or printed if letter is handwritten, no titles included)

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