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COVER LETTER GUIDE

You should always include a cover letter along with your resume. The cover letter is often the first impression that an employer has of you - and often a first impression is a lasting impression!  Don't spend so much time on your resume that you do a rush job on your cover letter.  Prepare your cover letter with as much care and detail as you do your resume!  We recognize that not all recruiters take the time to read cover letters, but many do (some even consider it more important than your resume) so why take a chance by leaving it out?

Cover letters should answer the all-important question: Why should we hire youYou must do some research before writing the cover letter to be able to customize your letter to meet the needs of the prospective employer.  Show that you understand their organization and industry ... don't send form letters.  Of course it is possible that some employers will skip the cover letter and head straight to the resume first, but don't take that chance and risk blowing your chance by cutting corners! 

Cover letters should usually be no more than one page in length.  The introductory paragraph states why you are writing and how you heard about the position.  The middle paragraphs (may be 1-3 paragraphs) must relate your skills and experiences to the employer's needs.  Choose the most important skills/abilities needed for the position and be sure to show where you demonstrated these.   Show how you would be able to contribute to the organization, not how the position will help you!  Try to demonstrate that you have an interest in and understanding of the organization.  The final paragraph is used to re-state your interest in the position, thank the employer for their consideration and request an interview.

CanadianCareers.com has compiled a list of top 10 tips for cover letters:

  • don't address your letter "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern";  find out who will be receiving the applications, usually a Human Resources Manager/Advisor, and address the letter to him/her
  • check your spelling and grammar and proofread it over and over again; use a word-processing package with built-in spell-checking and ask a friend to check it too ...  if you don't take the time and effort at this point, what should the employer expect from you after you have been hired!
  • never write the cover letter by hand; word-process it and get it laser printed (or print on the best mode possible using an ink-jet printer)
  • use an active voice and take ownership for your accomplishments; don't start every sentence with "I"
  • send a customized cover letter for every position you are applying for, not a form letter.  Form letters will not impress the hiring manager. You must research the company and determine the traits and qualities they are looking for.
  • be specific ... saying you are efficient, a team player, or have excellent communication skills is fine, but back it up with specifics from your experiences
  • don't just repeat what is on your resume. Take the opportunity to tell the employer what you can do for the company- that is, why you should be hired for this particular position at that particular company.
  • keep it brief ... cover letters should be kept to one page, and in general, paragraphs should be kept to four to six lines or so.  Full-block format is typically used.
  • use special effects (bold, different fonts, colour) sparingly or not at all; keep it professional. A standard font (Arial or Times Roman, 11 or 12 point size) is usually a good idea.
  • your cover letter is one of your key marketing documents - make it count!

Make the employer want to meet with you by showing how your skills and experience meet the needs of the employer.  It takes time to create effective targetted cover letters, but it is definitely worth the time and effort.

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