Your letter should be composed of three or four short paragraphs:

1. The first paragraph should always tell the reader who you are and why you are writing. You should inform the reader of what specific position you are seeking, why you think the company needs your services, and anything else that you think briefly explains why you are writing. This is a good place to include a brief reference to something you know about the company. Don't go into detail here in the first paragraph; just drop a little factoid that shows you're familiar with the company's exploits.

2. The second paragraph should describe your professional skills and academic qualifications for the position you're seeking. Don't mention details about your skills or schooling that don't apply to the specific company and position. Some of your experience and training may be broadly relevant, which is fine to include for almost any job. For example, having run your own business is good experience in general, and it wouldn't hurt to mention it briefly in most cover letters.

3. The third paragraph should explain how you are a good fit at the company and how you will be a valuable asset in the position you want.

4. The fourth paragraph should request that the company schedule an interview with you or contact you about your application. If you are going to be in the area any time soon, you should also mention when you'll be there and how long you're going to stay.

5. Next, you should write a line that says something like (or exactly): "Thank you for your time and consideration." (This line can be the last line in the fourth paragraph or a one-line paragraph of its own.)

6. Then, on the next line, lined up with your address in the top right hand corner, write "Yours sincerely," "Yours truly," or "Sincerely." Then skip three to five lines (depending on space), and, lined up with "Sincerely," or whatever, write your name. Then sign it, sign it, sign it.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW write a cover letter?