Job advertisements don’t always ask for a cover letter along with your resumé, but you should know you are always expected to send one. Some companies won’t even look at your resumé if it’s not accompanied by such a letter. After all, resumés and cover letters represent your first encounter with prospective employers and furnish the criteria based on which you may be selected for a job interview. Consequently, you should not write a in haste, but pay attention to every detail when crafting one in order to have the best cover letter possible.

While they may be required to follow certain standard patterns, you do have some freedom as to the style, so you should try to give your resumé and especially your cover letter a distinctive look. You’ll want to draw the reader’s attention to your letter and to make them remember it after they’ve read it. Here are a few tips you might find useful.

The first thing you can personalize in your cover letter is the address. “Personalize” has a double meaning here: firstly, it should serve the above mentioned purpose of distinguishing your letter, and secondly, the person reading it should really feel that it is addressed to him or her. Addressing people by their names is likely to have a stronger impact than a plain “Dear Sir or Madam”, as it grants more importance to the reader. Even if you are writing in response to a blind ad, you can sometimes find out the name of the person in charge of hiring if you do a bit of research on the company.

However, it is ultimately the content of your letter that will have the strongest impact. Be sure to stick to the point: unlike your resumé, a letter of application is not a general purpose document. It is supposed to highlight only that part of your background, skills, credentials and experience that is relevant to the particular position you are applying for. Rather than simply listing them and providing some schematic comments on them, as you would do in a resumé, you should expand on them in the cover letter and present them in an elegant manner. While you do have to maintain a formal style, spend some time working on the phrasing so as to make it reveal those traits of your personality that you want to discretely advertise: for it to be the best cover letter, it should be not only to the point, but also pleasant to read.

One more piece of advice: Many people believe that a handwritten letter is likely to make a better impression on the reader. The explanation is that your handwriting can convey a lot of useful information about you.

Remember, personalization is what can make your letter stand out, thus increasing your chances of being short-listed.

The Power of Thank You

The job interview may leave you feeling optimistic or pessimistic, but it should not mark the end of your hunt for a particular job. What many people are not aware of is that the interview need not be the last interaction between you and your potential employer. Quite often, you can still work on the impression you made even after the interview by sending a simple thank-you letter.

Your letter can have a triple effect on the person reading it, apart from bringing your name to his or her attention one more time. First of all, your thank-you letter restates your interest in the job being offered. Even if you are not the one they choose for that particular position, they might consider you for future openings at the company. Second, it shows your gratitude towards the people who took the time to talk to you, which means they will feel flattered. Finally, a thank-you letter makes you look more professional in the eyes of the interviewer.

The thank-you letter should be written in a more personal style than your cover letter, since you’re writing to people you have already met and talked with. However, “personal” does not mean casual, so you should still maintain a professional tone.

One word of advice concerning the content of your letter: try not to make it more than a thank-you letter. If you feel that you omitted important details of your career during the interview and that mentioning them here could improve your chances of getting the job, you can make some discrete reference to them in the letter. However, the interviewer should still have the impression that they are reading a thank-you letter and not a disguised appendix to the interview.

The letter should be sent one or two days after the interview. Sending it later might diminish its potential impact. If all goes well, the company might soon call you back and invite you to another interview.

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