Some may say the cover letter is obsolete. However, I’ve seen a well-craft cover letter make the decision on a prospective candidate faster and oftentimes can make up for a really lousy resume. 

If you’re going to do it though, do it right. Cover letters are tailored to the opportunity and will speak directly to the reviewer regarding the expertise you bring to the position, why you want to work there, and what you know about the company and its industry.

When starting a cover letter, begin with a cordial salutation. Ideally, find out the name of the hiring manager for the position, usually listed on the job posting or the company’s website, and use his or her name in the salutation. If you cannot find the name of the hiring manager, address the letter, To whom it may concern.”

The Structure

The cover letter’s first paragraph should be two to four sentences long. This is where you introduce yourself to the reviewer and explain how you became aware of the position. Include upfront any mutual contacts you have.

The second paragraph should talk to the reviewer about the specific position that you’re interested in. Explain the value you bring to the position and include several quantifiable successes from past organizations that you would bring to the role.

The third paragraph is the conclusion. Discussing the position with the reviewer, convey to him or her that you’re a serious candidate for the position. You are familiar with the industry and you can bring specific, functional expertise to the organization. Ideally, research the company in advance and include in your letter a few comments specifically addressing why you want to work there.

Finally, don’t go on too long; the cover letter doesn’t need to be a two-page document. It needs to express your interest in the role and engage the reader—include a handful of well-written paragraphs, then wrap it up. No fluff. Specifically showcase what you’re bringing to the table. Keep it short and sweet.

The bottom line: write that cover letter…and make sure it’s good.