The best cover letters get right to the point. Recruiters and company HR staff have only so many hours in the day, and they appreciate when a letter outlines the applicant’s qualifications and background as succinctly as possible.
In addition to brevity, winning cover letters contain a few additional elements. Recruiters and HR have a keen eye for when a cover letter is boilerplate, often because the skills it describes don’t fully align with the position on offer; the best letters explain in sufficient detail how the applicant is an ideal fit for that job, while still keeping things brief. (It’s a bit of a tightrope.) Do everything in your power to address the letter to a specific recruiter or hiring manager; if that’s not possible, keep things gender neutral—it’s “Dear Hiring Manager,” not “Dear Sir.”
Your cover letter’s first paragraph is always introductory, and should feature (in addition to your name) your skills, last relevant job title, and the position for which you’re applying. (“With my 10 years of database experience, I feel confident that I can excel as a database engineer at [X company],” and so on.)
The second paragraph should provide greater clarity on how your skills and experience make you such a great fit. (“As a database administrator for [previous employer], I executed [projects] that resulted in not only goals achieved well ahead of deadline, but also in substantial cost savings.”)
The third and final paragraph should always be forward-looking: In addition to reiterating your interest in the job, mention that you’ll follow up in a few days about an interview.
Keep the letter to one page in length, because that’s all the recruiter or HR staff will scan.
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