How to Write a Cover Letter

The basic cover letter format is as follows:

First Paragraph:  The first paragraph should indicate why you are writing -- e.g., you are applying for X position or inquiring as to whether there is an opening with the company, etc. Try to open your letter with something original and natural rather than using the standard opening found in cover letter manuals.  For example, most people open with something like:  "Please accept this letter as my application for the position of ______ advertised in the XYZ Newspaper."  Instead, be yourself, and open with something like: "When I read your advertisement for a  ______________ I knew I was perfect for the position because . . ."

Second and Third Paragraphs:  You must aggressively market yourself.  You can best do this by devoting this paragraph to answering the question:  How are you qualified for the position and why should you be hired?  Show how you are qualified by applying your training and/or experience to the position for which you are applying.  Point out your practical work experience, specific achievements, and unique qualifications. 

You can also do research on a particular company and apply your skills and accomplishments to its particular needs.    This way, the reader gets the impression that you have written only to him/her and are not sending out copies of the same cover letter to 100 other employers.

Did the ad request that you disclose a salary requirement or salary history?  Most employment experts advise you to ignore such requests; however, if you feel compelled to comply, the next to the last paragraph is a good place to do it.   You can write something like:  "As to my salary requirement, my current salary including benefits is $______________."  Or, you could write:  "My salary requirement is $____________.  This figure is competitive with what others in my field and with my level of experience earn in the San Francisco area."   (By the way, you can find out what people who work in your field with your level of experience earn in any location in the USA by visiting and doing some research.)

Final Paragraph: 

In closing, refer the reader to your enclosed or attached resume.  You might also want to state that you are interested in interviewing for the position and offer two or three dates when you are available to interview.  If appropriate, add a sentence informing the recipient that you will be phoning in a week or two to discuss the possibility of an interview.   Always end the letter by thanking the reader for his time.

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