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Cover Letter Basics & Beyond

July 2015

Cover letters get a bad rap, with confounding advice on how to format them, what to write and even whether or not to submit one at all when applying for a position. This month’s InnerView Q&A addresses these concerns and covers the bases when it comes to everyone’s favorite one-page introduction!

Q: What advice do you have to help your cover letter stand out? –Paige W., Chicago

A: With all the articles and guides floating around the internet, it can be difficult to know where to begin when it comes to the cover letter. One thing that’s for certain is to include one when applying to positions. I don’t believe that hiring managers don’t read cover letters—they may skim, sure, but the notion that they simply toss your letter into the recycling is unfounded. With that, some ways to help your cover letter stand out amongst the pack:

Addressing the letter

The stalwart, “to whom it may concern” may be the fastest way for a hiring manager to dismiss your letter. Contrary to popular belief, not knowing the name of the specific person reading it won’t work against you. In fact, going to excessive lengths to reach out to the organization in order to find out will do so. A good alternative if you’re not given a name is to simply address the organization as a whole (e.g. Dear Careers In Nonprofits). It’s simple and all-encompassing, with little room for misinterpretation.    




Nurys Harrigan is president of Careers In Nonprofits, the experts in nonprofit staffing and recruiting with offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

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