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General Procedure

  • Send a customized, personalized letter with your resume whenever possible. If all you change is the first sentence, you’re ahead of the crowd that doesn’t bother with this key element. Exceptions can be made for blind-box ads, but if it looks like an exceptional position, then by all means include a letter addressed to the name of the hiring manager (see below); otherwise, send it to “Dear Hiring Executive:”, “Ladies/Gentlemen:”, “Dear Hiring Manager:” or “Dear Prospective Employer:”. Use a colon (:) when you’ve never spoken to the individual and a comma when you have. When emailing directly to employers, attach your resume in MS Word or PDF format and then use the body of the email for your cover letter, in text format.

  • Especially important in the executive job search: Personalize and address your letters to the actual hiring manager whenever possible. If you don’t have a name, call the company and get the exact spelling of the hiring authority’s name and job title. If you can’t find this by calling the company, I recommend ReferenceUSA.com, available through most libraries at no charge. If the target company is listed there, you may find the name of the department head or hiring manager. If that’s not available, send it to the personnel manager, human resources representative or corporate recruiter, with a name if possible.

  • Make your letters brief and to the point—they stand a much better chance of getting read. Some employers skip the letter entirely and get to it only if they like what they see in your resume, so limit it to three or four short paragraphs.

  • Unless you have excellent handwriting and are writing a personal note to someone you’ve met, cover letters should always be typed. Try to match paper colors of resumes and letters, but don’t worry too much about this. White goes well with everything and doesn’t look mass produced. It also looks more personal and immediate.

  • Just as with your resume, proofread your letter very closely. Proofread once for content and once for grammar and typing mistakes. Then read it backwards and have someone else read it, too.


  

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