How Should I Structure My Cover Letter?

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Like resumes and other parts of job applications, cover letters tend to follow a common structure. You can deviate from it at your own risk, but unless you have a clear purpose for doing so, it’s usually best to stick to the basics. Most cover letters incorporate the following, usually in this order:

– Basic information. At the top of the cover letter, include the date and the contact information for the person who will be reading the letter. If you can’t find the person’s name, use a job title, but do your best to identify the proper point of contact.

– Introduction. The first paragraph of your letter should include an attention-grabbing first line that establishes your reason for applying. From there, be sure to identify the job you’re applying for and discuss how you learned about it. You should also include a brief description of yourself and your credentials. If you were referred to the position, this is a good place to mention the name of the person who referred you.

– Body. The body of your letter should be one or two paragraphs in length and give the employer a good reason to hire you. Display the research you’ve done by talking about the company and how you can help it. Give special attention to your accomplishments and credentials, including special training and work experience. Remember to expand upon information in your resume or give information not included in your resume, rather than repeating what the employer can find elsewhere in your application.

– Closing. Your final paragraph should provide an opportunity for follow-up. Include information about your availability for an interview and your desire to meet with the person your letter addresses to discuss the job. Restate your interest in the position, and mention any supplementary material like a portfolio or writing sample that you’re sending separately. Finally, make sure to thank the employer before closing with your full name and your contact information.

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