By: Dr. Ima Hirin

Q: How do I construct a cover letter to reflect my best qualities and offerings?

A: One of the more daunting challenges in the job search process is writing an effective cover letter. The purpose of a cover letter is to tell the perspective employer what you can do for them, how you will add value to their organization, and why you want the job.  Whether sent by snail mail, as a scanned document, FAX, or contained within e-mail, what follows is a good formula for a three to four paragraph cover letter.

1st Paragraph: Introduction: Tell why you are writing. Identify the position title and/or the particular position for which you are applying. Tell how you learned of this opportunity.  Catch the reader’s attention through the use of a personal contact, your knowledge of the company, and/or a compliment to the reader.

2nd Paragraph: Value Selling: Explain why you are interested in the position: why you have applied, why you feel confident that you can handle the job duties.  Answer the question how you will add value to their company.  Speak to your: 1) work experience, 2) education, and/or 3) personal qualities that are pertinent to the position that you are seeking. Mention some facet of the position of the hiring organization that genuinely interests you, giving the letter a personal touch.

3rd Paragraph: Closing: State that your resume and/or application (plus any additionally requested materials and information) are provided. Give your availability for an interview, suggesting a date and time if appropriate, with the best times and means to contact you.  Use a cordial closing that asks for action without begging or commanding.  Compel the reader to further action and strong consideration of your application.

While no one technique is a surefire way to get hired, a well-written cover letter can serve to get someone interested and is often the first step toward getting an interview.

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