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What is a Cover Letter? The Anatomy of a Cover Letter

Cover Letter - Style and BrandThe cover letter that accompanies your resume is a tool to get the hiring manager to read your resume. It must be designed to catch the hiring manager’s attention and prompt a phone call for an interview. It should add information that isn’t in your resume and establish communication between you and the hiring manager. An impressive, effective cover letter that gets the results you want — an interview — has a style and brand that matches your resume, contains active language, is addressed to the person who can hire you and ends with a call to action.

Style and Brand
Keep your cover letter style and brand consistent with your resume. Everything should have the same look and feel. Use the same paper as your resume, the same type size and font printing and in electronic form such as a resume in Powerpoint presentation format or on a website, and incorporate the same personal branding messages as in your resume. Your cover letter must create a great impression and be memorable.

Active Language
Use active language in your cover letter, and start with a strong, attention-grabbing opening that states your main qualifications and your objective in a headline or the first sentence. For example, “My background as a seasoned human resources professional with ten years of experience in full-scope recruiting will help me hire the future movers and shakers for Acme Corporation.” Avoid using “I” as much as possible by rephrasing “I have” and “I am” statements from “I have trained other and am prepared for a supervisory role” to something like “Two years of experience training our sales rep has prepared me for more responsibility as a supervisor.” Give the employer a descriptive snapshot of your fitness for the job and answer the question “Why should we hire you?”

Recipient
The direct target of your cover letter and resume is the person who can hire you, so always address your cover letter to a person rather than to a generic title such as “Dear Hiring Manager.” Avoid outdated salutations such as “To Whom It May Concern.” Call and ask for the name and title of the hiring manager, research the company on their website or through networking or business information services, or look up company press releases to find out who is hiring for the position and address your cover letter accordingly.

Call to Action
The end of your cover letter should be just as strong and focused as the opening. Explain when, where, and how you can be contacted, and ask for an interview. Explain why you want the position and how it matches your qualifications, and give brief reasons why this company is your preference. End your cover letter with a call to action that lets the reader know you will be following up, such as “I look forward to the opportunity to interview for your corporate recruiter position. I will check back with you by Wednesday about the possibility of an interview.”

References

• Career Essentials: The Cover Letter; Dale Mayer
• Knock ‘em Dead Cover Letters; Martin Yate
• Get It Done: Write a Cover Letter; Jeremy Schifeling