How to Write Cover Letters That Work

Often, job candidates think of their cover letter as a last-minute item. Yet the letter that accompanies your résumé has a very specific purpose. It is a demonstration of your comprehension of the organization and the position you are applying for. It is also a litmus test of your overall writing and communication skills.

Here are three tips to help you pass human resources’ screening and end up on a potential employer’s interview list.

Avoid creating letters that are obvious and full of clichés

Don’t waste your cover letter rehashing your résumé. If you really want the job, research the organizationand the open position. Then, using the organization’s tone and style, explain specifically how your skills match the job. For example, consider the average sentence length and what technical jargon is used on the company’s website. Portland State’s Online Career Center is a great local resource.

Find a specific hiring manager’s name

Don’t limit yourself to the company web site: try LinkedIn, Facebook and Google searches. Please don’t address your letter “To Whom It May Concern.”

Tell employers how you enthusiastically and specifically can serve their needs

They don’t care about what the company can do for you and your career. Your cover letter is your declaration of how well you know this company and how you will contribute to their philosophy and mission. As Meghan Peters from Mashable states, a cover letter gives hiring managers an opportunity to assess your dedication to a specific position.

Your letter should ask for an interview so that you may present your skills, commitment and expertise. Then you must follow up in a timely manner with a phone call. Repeat as necessary. Since you now have the name of the hiring manager, that person may tell you how frequently to check in and possibly offer insights into their company’s hiring process.