A cover letter should almost always accompany your resume, as it is just as important. Not only do cover letters set the tone for an employer’s first impression of you, they are also prime opportunities for you to tailor your qualifications to the job opening for which you are applying. A cover letter should be brief and introductory, not a synopsis of your job history, nor a lengthy self-description.

A three-paragraph cover letter should be sufficient. Your purpose is to trigger an employer’s interest in you as a leading candidate and to showcase your business writing skills. Your goal is to earn an interview.

When writing cover letters, avoid describing your personal attributes in terms like “assertive” and “highly motivated.” Instead, list career accomplishments that best demonstrate your most appealing skills and character strengths. In other words, don’t simply tell potential employers you are a hard worker who gets results—show them.

Here are some suggestions:

Paragraph 1. The first paragraph should clearly identify the position for which you are applying. Here you will note where and how you learned of the job opening. Straightforward, clear information should steer your resume to the right recruiter or hiring manager’s desk. For example:

I am responding to your July 20 job posting on www.websitename.com for the call center specialist position at your firm’s Illinois headquarters.

Note: You can also include the names and titles of relevant company individuals you’ve met at job fairs or networking events if applicable.

Paragraph 2. The second paragraph demonstrates that you can get the job done. Use this paragraph as a bridge to connect the job skills listed on your resume with the requirements for the available position. Consider including information that details related assignments or accomplishments, similarities to your current or most recent position, and why you believe you would excel at the job. Including quantifiable proof of your successes, such as numbers, statistics, programs established, etc., increases the impact of your accomplishments to potential employers. For example:

My qualifications appear to be a match for the position you have described:

Your Requirements
Three years of experience in a call center or customer services department.

My Experience
More than four years of experience as a customer service specialist at ABC Phone Company.

Final Paragraph. Deliver your closing pitch in the final paragraph. Here you should confidently restate your interest in the job and thank your potential employer. Be sure to request the next step in the employment process—an interview. Inform the recruiter or potential employer of how best to contact you to schedule a meeting or an interview. If necessary, repeat your phone number and email address. If you committed to contact the person to whom your cover letter is addressed, follow through. Doing so demonstrates your accountability, self-motivation and interest. For example:

I look forward to discussing with you soon how my background and experience could benefit your organization. I can be reached via email anytime at [email protected], or by phone at (555) 555-1234. Thank you for your time and consideration.

The cover letter should be viewed as an extension of your resume. If done properly, it can be used to emphasize your credentials when responding to job opportunities. With a concise, solid cover letter, you can propel yourself to the top of the recruited list as a viable candidate for any opening. The time you put into creating one will be well worth it. IBI