I would like to know if there's a certain structure to write a letter when you're applying for a job. Can you give me some tips on how to write one?
by Catherine Sutton, Professional Resume Writer
Imagine you’re an HR manager who’s posted a job. You get about 100 replies, each with a cover letter and a resume, and your first task is to weed out enough of them so you have a manageable number to read through more thoroughly later.
Some of the cover letters actually have your name on them. Hmm… those are hard to throw out. So are the ones that mention the job by name and where they saw the ad – they show that the applicants are thinking about what interests you (i.e., how effective are the company’s advertising dollars?).
As you continue through the pile looking for throwaways, you see that some letters demonstrate that the applicant has actually been to the website or knows something about the company. Hmm… better keep them. Some look like they’d even be fun to read; they show something about the writers’ personalities.
You notice that the letters with short paragraphs make points stand out and are easy to read after a long day at the office. Oh, your tired eyes love all that white space! You decide to keep those letters too. After all, if a cover letter exhibits that kind of thoughtfulness, its counterpart (the resume) will probably be pretty good too!
On the other hand, cover letters that contain dense text, are over a page long, have catch-all content that repeats hackneyed phrases and sounds like the resume all over again are easy to throw out. Luckily about 85% of the entries fit that description, so you’re left with a select 15 that you happily tuck into your briefcase to read on the train journey home.
For more hints on how to write a winning cover letter, go to The Cover Letter Guide, where you’ll find an easy-to-follow tutorial on how to go about it from start to finish.
Catherine Sutton has been a professional resume writer on Susan Ireland's team since 2002. She works with job seekers from all levels of employment in person or by phone and email.
Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Recruitment Tips: Write an Individual Cover Letter by Pawell Brodzinski seems to confer with Catherine. Although his post is specially for the software industry, it’s easy to see that managers in most industries probably feel the same way.
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