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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

A resume is an essential tool for any job search, but it's not the only tool. Your cover letter is equally important in creating a good first impression for a potential employer. Take some time to make your cover letter great and increase your chances of landing that dream job.

  1. Find a job posting, job tip or advertisement that interests you, and make sure you are truly qualified for the position. Busy employers sometimes receive hundreds of letters, so don't waste their time or yours.

  2. Match the letterhead style and paper you will use for your cover letter to that of your resume. This helps to establish a solid first impression.

  3. Skip the salutation if you do not know the name of the person who will be reviewing your resume. It's best to address the letter to a specific person; call the company and see if the receptionist can give you a name and title.

  4. Grab the reader's attention right away - make him or her want to keep reading. You need to distinguish yourself early from the rest of the pack.

  5. Mention in the first paragraph where you learned about the job opportunity and why you're interested.

  6. Establish a professional image in the second and third paragraphs by highlighting your most significant accomplishments and qualifications. Be careful not to quote your résumé verbatim.

  7. Clarify what you can contribute to the employer's organization rather than what you hope to gain from this potential relationship. You can discuss the latter in the interview.

  8. Remind the reader, in the last paragraph, that your resume will further explain your qualifications, experience and education. Request a personal interview, and indicate the times you will be available.

  9. Close your letter by telling the reader that you look forward to hearing from the company, and restate your enthusiasm for learning more about the opportunity.

  10. Double-check your document for spelling and grammar; refer to a stylebook if necessary. Carelessness makes a bad impression on employers.

  11. Print your letter using a good ink-jet or laser printer.

Before writing your cover letter, research the company to which you are applying. Then your letter can refer to specifics about the employer's business as reasons why you are interested in working there.

Keep it short. Most cover letters stick to one page and use a standard business letter format.

Consider using bullet points in your middle paragraphs to further highlight accomplishments.

Don't get too personal or wordy. Save stories and relevant anecdotes for the interview.

Don't brag. Confidence is important, but don't overdo it.

Skip the statistics. Although the fact that you increased your account base by 68.635 percent more than the last person may be interesting to you, it often means nothing to your prospective employer.

Never, never send a photocopied letter or use a form letter. This tells your prospective employer you are not interested enough to write an original letter and that you are satisfied doing just what it takes to get by.

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