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Cover Letter Format Guidelines

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/28/2010

Do you need help learning about cover letter format guidelines? If so, you've come to the right place. Learn all about how to format your cover letter to get the job you want in this helpful Bright Hub article.

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    Why Write a Cover Letter?

    Many jobs require that you submit a cover letter with your resume. Some companies will provide you with their own cover letter format guidelines. Other jobs will not give you any guidelines, but you will need to submit a cover letter that impresses and wows them. How do you know what to do if all you've been told is to submit a cover letter and resume? Have no fear, learn all about cover letter format guidelines here!

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    1. Use Formal Letterhead on Nice Stationary

    I know you're beyond writing your cover letter on the back of an envelope or even using your own handwriting to produce a cover letter. You may, however, think it's fine to just submit a cover letter on plain printer paper. While this might be okay for some positions, take time to invest in good-quality paper if you can. Also, create a letterhead, even if it's just something simple at the top of your page. This will show that you take yourself seriously. Make sure that your letterhead is professional and that it does not detract from the content of your letter (no hearts, sports cars, or other "flashy" graphics, please).

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    2. Take Time to Find Out Who to Address Your Letter To

    After the date, the next thing that appears in a cover letter is the address of the individual the letter is intended for. Please do not address your cover letter to "Human Resources" or "Editor." Take time to find out who is in charge of hiring at the company or department you want to work for and address the letter to him or her. Details like this can make the difference between the recycling bin and the "to pursue further" list. Why? If you took the time to find out who to address your letter to, then you actually might be someone who cares about the position you are applying for and knows something about the company.

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    3. Demonstrate You Know Something About the Company

    Many people start off their cover letters, after the greeting (Dear Mr. So and So), by explaining why they are a good fit for the job. Don't do this. Start by showing that you know something about the company and position you are applying for. If the company recently expanded, congratulate the company on their expansion. If the company just released a new product, mention it. Yes, every cover letter you write should be tailored to the company and position applied for! Don't forget this, or you could wind up prolonging your job search.

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    4. Now, Demonstrate You Have the Skills the Company Needs

    Don't just say "I went to college at such and such university." They will see this on your resume! Instead, now that you have shown you have knowledge about the company and the position you are interested in, show how you would work fulfilling that position. Are you applying as a project manager? If so, you will want to talk about your great problem-solving skills and your ability to effectively lead a team. Maybe you should even include the vignette about the time you got that project in, ahead of schedule and under-budget.

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    5. Let the Company Know When You Will Be Available for Work

    Next, you should make sure to let the company know when you will be able to start work. If you must first resign from a position, let them know. If you are available immediately upon hire, also let them know.

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    6. End on a Positive Note

    Finally, end your letter on a positive note. Thank the person reading the letter for their time and let him know that you are looking forward to hearing from him. Be sure to sign your letter and type neatly your name underneath the signature line.

    I have created a cover letter template for your use in the media gallery.