Minding Your Pleases and Thank Yous, Part I

by Laura Merrill, Manager of Cooperative Education

While we were all taught to say please and thank you as little children, many of us have forgotten these very important social graces in adulthood, especially when it comes to the job search. But effectively remembering both of these sentiments is vital to landing the job.

Killer Cover Letters
Everyone knows the importance of a good resume, but are you aware of how vital the cover letter is? Your resume can be somewhat cold—kind of like a product brochure. But a cover letter lets you personalize your resume and highlight the skills you would bring to the job for which you’re applying. Also, the cover letter—like your resume—should be customized for each job opportunity. There are a variety of cover letter formats to keep in mind, including invited, uninvited or cold-contact, referral, and job match cover letters. You can read more about these online at http://www.deed.state.mn.us/cjs/letters.htm.

There are several components of a cover letter that you should keep in mind. Whenever possible, address your cover letter to a specific person. If you’re responding to a newspaper ad and this information isn’t provided, address the letter to the appropriate hiring manager using generic terms like “Office Manager” or “Director of Marketing and Public Relations.” Never use the salutation “To Whom It May Concern.”

In the first paragraph, state your reason for applying for the job (and the job you are applying for—there may be several openings). What skills can you bring to the position? What do you know about the position and the company that will help you help the company succeed? Who are you and why do you want the job? Effectively stating these essentials will give you the tools for a killer first paragraph. Your potential employer will want to keep reading.

In the middle paragraphs of your cover letter, summarize the key points of your work history, including specific references that will indicate how well you’ll perform on the job. For example, you might say something along the lines of: “My degree in marketing and my co-op with Bisig Impact Group would make me a strong asset to Creative Alliance.” In another paragraph, outline accomplishments not already covered in your resume and explain why you’re perfect for this position.

The closing paragraph should attest to your social grace: You’ll thank the hiring manager for taking the time to review your resume and considering you for the position. You should also state your hopes that they will contact you for an interview and note your plans to follow up with them.

Cover letters are not the place to show a lot of bling or attitude. While they should be personalized to fit your style, they don’t need to gush with insincere compliments about the company and you don’t need to go overboard with inflated statements about you as a person. Also, the stationery and envelopes you choose should be professional and understated and should match your resume paper.

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