Mixing Up a Batch of Cover Letters

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Years ago, I had a friend who made the most wonderful soft, fully-chip loaded chocolate cookies. I wanted to be able to make these cookies, but she wanted to keep her recipe to herself. Finally after much coaxing, I convinced her to share her recipe, and now, I make the most wonderful chocolate chip cookies!

Today, I'm going to share with you an equally valuable recipe. Many of you are writing cover letters to go with your résumés for the EMS Career Fair Reception (held next week, September 14, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. in the EMS Museum), and although each cover letter should be individually crafted depending on the specific audience, here is a general recipe for an effective cover letter.

Introduction (paragraph one)

Engage the audience
State the position you're applying for
State where you learned of the position

Body (paragraphs two and three)

Highlight a few of your key qualifications and relate them to the position
Address each of the requirements specified in the job description
Present evidence of your performance
Demonstrate a few significant job-related skills (time management, analytical, communications, problem solving, leadership, ability to learn quickly, meticulous attention to detail, lab research, etc.)
Do NOT repeat facts presented in your résumé
Refer the reader to your résumé at the end of the body

Conclusion (paragraphs three and four)
Ask the reader for an interview or a specific action
Give contact information and the best time to reach you
Sound confident, appreciative, and pleasant.

Keep in mind that it's best to follow standard business formats for professional communications (either a block or modified block letter format). It's also best to print your letter, sign it, scan it, and then save it as a pdf if you're sending it electronically. If you're sending it through the mail, use high quality paper and matching envelopes. Appearance does matter.

Now that I have shared with you the recipe for an effective cover letter, try your hand at mixing up a batch. We'll have Chef Ramsay give you a critique.

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