Writing For Application Letters

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Your cover letter is supposed to give a window into those things. Most cover letters break that rule — seriously, about 98 percent of them — and it’s such a huge waste of an opportunity!

Your initial application is going to be a few pages at best (in most cases, a one- or two-page résumé and a one-page cover letter).

Or maybe your last boss told you that you were the most accurate data processor she’d ever seen, or came to rely on you as her go-to person whenever a lightning-fast rewrite was needed.

Maybe your co-workers called you “the client whisperer” because of your skill in calming upset clients.

You’d probably talk about what you’re good at and how you’d approach the work. If you read much job-search advice, at some point you’ll come across the idea that you need to do Woodward and Bernstein–level research to hunt down the hiring manager’s name in order to open your letter with “Dear Matilda Jones.” You don’t need to do this; no reasonable hiring manager will care.

If the name is easily available, by all means, feel free to use it, but otherwise “Dear Hiring Manager” is absolutely fine.If you’re still stumped, pretend you’re writing an email to a friend about why you’d be great at the job.You probably wouldn’t do that by stiffly reciting your work history, right?Maybe you’re regularly sought out by more senior people to help problem-solve, or you find immense satisfaction in bringing order to chaos.Those sorts of details illustrate what you bring to the job in a different way than your résumé does, and they belong in your cover letter.Just as simple and straightforward: • “I’m writing to apply for your X position.” • “I’d love to be considered for your X position.” • “I’m interested in your X position because…” • “I’m excited to apply for your X position.” That’s it!You don’t need to open like an informercial pitchman. Stay away from simply asserting that you’d be great at the job, or proclaiming that you’re a great communicator or a skilled manager or so forth.If so, that’s a sign that you haven’t made it specific enough to you and are probably leaning too heavily on just reciting your work history.If your cover letters are longer than a page, you’re writing too much, and you risk annoying hiring managers who don’t have time to read lengthy tomes.If you squander one of those pages by just repeating the content of the others, you’re doing yourself an enormous disservice.Instead, your cover letter should go beyond your basic work history to talk about things that make you especially well-suited for the job.

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