Step 1: Research Your Prospective Employer

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Research the Company
A knockout cover letter sells the concept that you're a good fit for the company you're applying to. In order to devise a winning sales pitch for your letter, you need to understand what makes the company tick (its products, history, market standing, goals, challenges, mission statement, industry, clientele, corporate culture, etc.).

Good places to research company information include:

  • The company's website
  • Online search engines (such as Google and Yahoo!)
  • Your professional and personal network (on- and off-line)
  • The business section of your public library
  • Business and financial magazines
  • Business sections of newspapers
  • Your prospective employer's company literature

Compile your company information into a company profile something like the following. (Of course, the contents of your format will depend upon what information you're able to gather.)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company's name: Westwood Running Shoes
Company's location: Los Angeles, California
Company's principal product: Running shoes
Company's other products: Socks, t-shirts, shoe laces, sports decals
Hiring manager for department I'm interested in: Mr. Alfred Jones, VP of Marketing
Company's annual revenue: $14 million
Customer demographics: 43% ages 18 and under, 35% ages 19-30, 17% ages 30-45, 5% ages 46 and over
Projected growth: $18 million in three years
Chief competitor: Anchor Line Shoes
Company promotional slogan: Westwood, for those in the fast lane
Product endorsement: Marathon champion, Fred Williams

Armed with information from your company profile, you'll be ready to craft a targeted cover letter for the job of your dreams.

Research the Hiring Manager / Recruiter
A quick scan will tell your reader whether you've written a letter specifically to him, or simply adapted a form letter. An influential cover letter targets the hiring manager or recruiter (whomever you're writing to) by speaking to his concerns and interests.

So before you set your fingers to the keyboard, try to get a sense of the manager's personality, management style, hiring preferences, and maybe something that relates to you (for example, you and he went to the same business school, or you both pilot planes).

Here are some ideas on how to get the scoop on your addressee:

  • Ask members of your network about the manager.
  • Look for his profiles on social networks.
  • Conduct an Internet search by company, industry, and manager's name.
  • Search Who's Who books, newspapers, trade journals, and company literature for articles by or about him.
  • Call local organizations that your prospective employer might belong to. Maybe he's scheduled to give a talk or lead a meeting that you could attend.

Cover Letter Template
50 Sample Cover Letters

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