// How to Write a Perfect Cover Letter

Do you know what a perfect cover letter looks like?

Okay, let’s discuss what an effective cover letter should contain. It is addressed to a person in the company of interest; it calls out an opportunity in which you are interested; it includes your qualifications for the position; and it finishes with an action-oriented statement such as, “I will call your office to schedule a meeting.” If your job application cover letter does not have these key elements, it will come up short.

Okay, let us entertain the first challenge… to whom should the letter be addressed? Well, if you’re attempting the “perfect” cover letter, it should not be addressed, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager”. It should be sent to a specific appropriate individual in the organization. In the ideal case, this will be the individual making the hiring decision, the manager to whom the position will report. Your alternative is a key manager in the department or an acquaintance that will likely forward your resume on receipt to the right person. Last but not least, you can send your resume and cover letter to a manager in the HR department. This should at least get your resume and cover letter a quick review before it gets passed on or dumped into the resume management system used by the company.

If you have a colleague that works at the company, see if you can’t get him to receive and forward on your resume. If not, get a email address and name from them and ask if you can use their name in the email… “I received your contact information from Tim Johnson, your IT Director.” An intro this personal will usually get your cover letter read and forwarded to the right individual in the company. You should not presume that you have no contacts at the company. Check out social networking sites like plaxo.com which allow you to search by company. Not only can you search for current employees, but you can tell if someone has previously been employed at a company. There may be someone you know quite well that left the organization on good terms that can give you an introduction and allow you to use them as a reference.

Without knowing someone at the company, how do you find the name and email address of a person in the firm? This is easily accomplished today with the amount of information available on the internet. You can spend some time on the company’s website and a search engine like Google. You can usually get this information on the “about us”, “management team”, “contact us”, or “press” pages of the company’s website. Most firms have a pattern to the their email addresses (something like firstname.lastname-at-company.com or firstinitial+lastname-at-company.com). Once you have the pattern of email addresses and the name of your contact you can piece together their likely email address with a high degree of confidence. You may have a little challenge with nicknames; sometimes “Robert” will go by “bob” in his email address. If this is a senior level person or it is a small company, often the mail server will be set to send mail addressed to either address through. If your email is returned undeliverable, simply try again with a different one.

Following these tips should get your cover letter and resume in the door. In later conversations we’ll talk about what else to include in your cover letter so that your resume gets read.

A winning cover letter is the key to getting your resume read and increasing your opportunity to be called for an interview. MyExecutiveCompass offers job candidates help in dealing with many job search challenges as well as cover letter templates and resume generation software to make the job search process easier. Follow our blog for tips and answers to your questions or join the Career Progression team to receive our newsletter and get your career out of the mud.


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