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Write a cover letter that zings!

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In the final paragraph, suggest they call you for a meeting, and provide your phone numbers and e-mail -- even if they're also at the top of the letter. Or show a little extra moxie and say you'll be calling them in the next week to set up an interview. Then do it.

User-friendly letters
You can accomplish all of this by creating a user-friendly cover letter. That means keeping it short and sweet, like four to five paragraphs. Certainly no more than one page.

Your cover letter is not the place to go into exhaustive detail about your experience cataloguing ancient Korean pottery or that Pentagon internship during the Gulf War. Touch on relevant topics. You can regale them with your stories during the interview.

"Try to think of three main things you want the employer to know," McKinney advises. She suggests a breakdown such as this:

  1. First paragraph: Explain why you are writing. Tell them what job you are applying for, where you learned about it and who referred you to the job, if someone did.
  2. Second paragraph: Talk about your most distinguishing, but relevant, characteristic.
  3. Third paragraph: Bring up your next most distinguishing characteristic, still relevant, of course.
  4. Fourth paragraph: One more time, tell them one more reason why you are perfect for this particular job.
  5. Fifth paragraph: In conclusion, tell the reader what the next step is.

Here's a quick list of do's and don'ts:

Do type the cover letter. No matter how good your penmanship.
Don't make spelling or grammatical errors. Have someone else read it over before you send it.
Do use a standard business letter format, including the company's full address even if you're faxing or e-mailing the letter and resume.
Don't get too creative and cutesy with fonts and paper. The cover letter should be neat and legible.
Do mention what job you are applying for.
Don't send a copy of a generic letter that you're sending out to any ol' potential employer.
Once you have a versatile, well-written cover letter in your computer, you're ready to go. With a quick tweaking it will suit whatever position or company you are interested in. Now all you have to worry about is what to wear to the interview.'s corrections policy -- Posted: Dec. 17, 2004
More stories by Cynthia Brodrick
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