width=267This week we're exploring strategies and best practices for writing cover letters. So take out your cover letter, dust it off, and let's go.

The purpose of your cover letter is not to bore the hiring manager with your entire life story, explain and justify every gap in employment, account for your career path, and so on and so forth. Your cover letter has one purpose-and one purpose only. Get the hiring manager's attention so he reads your resume! It's your opportunity to make a great first impression and let him know you deserve his time. Here are a few points to remember to ensure your cover letter is a success:

Be concise. Enough said.

Be specific. Focus on the specific job opening.

Be relevant. What have you done previously that is an exact match for what they need?

Showcase, Sell, and Brag - Oh my!  (Just kidding.) Seriously, talk yourself up (but be truthful and professional).

Be sure to reference the specific position in which you are interested, and work the company's name in there at some point. Also, mention the source where you heard about the position. (It's always nice as a hiring manager to know which sources bring you the most qualified candidates.)

I know most of you are applying for countless positions every week, and that it takes time to customize each individual cover letter. I've said it before, and I'll say it again...if making five minutes worth of adjustments now saves you days or weeks in your job search, that five minutes will have been well worth it.