Making a strong first impression is always important, especially when you are applying for jobs. You will only have one chance to convince a prospective employer that you are the most qualified candidate for the position. While your resume may give the employer a glimpse of your capabilities, it won’t necessarily persuade them to hire you. This is where the cover letter comes in handy. The cover letter will accompany your resume and act as a brief introduction of yourself. Within this introduction you will have the opportunity to elaborate on your skills, showcase your writing style, and express your creativity. In other words the cover letter will help to distinguish you from all of the other applicants.
Formatting & Content
While a cover letter is always desirable, it won’t always be beneficial. This is because more often than not, applicants will make careless formatting and grammatical errors that will turn an employer off. Employers weed through their stacks of applications by immediately eliminating those that are littered with errors.
The important thing to keep in mind when you’re writing your cover letter is that you are not restating your resume. The purpose is to elaborate on three or four main points from your resume that specifically pertain to the job that you are applying for. Your cover letter should be formatted in business letter format. This type of formatting includes the following items:
Your Return Address
Your Primary Telephone Number
Your Professional Email Address
The Full Name of the Recipient
The Title/Position of the Recipient
The Company Name
The Company Address
Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. Last Name,
- Introduction Paragraph:
In your introduction you should state who you are, and why you are writing to the company/organization. To avoid any confusion, you should identify the position that you are applying for, how you heard of it, and what it is about the position that is motivating you to write. If you know someone within the company/organization, it wouldn’t hurt to mention his or her name. From here, you will want to lead into your body paragraph(s) by emphasizing how your background experience is a good fit for what the employer is seeking.
*Note: It’s always advised that you do some research about the industry that you’re applying for. Use this research as well as the job descriptions to your advantage when you’re considering which of your skills you want to focus on in the body of your cover letter.
- Body Paragraph(s):
Depending on your level of experience and writing style, the body of your cover letter could consist of either one or two paragraphs. It’s within the body that you will want to highlight your relevant qualifications. Sell yourself to the employer; explain how you can be of value to them. Never apologize for having too little work experience. Employers know that everyone has to start somewhere, so your body paragraph(s) should highlight what accomplishments and experience you do have, rather than what you don’t. For recent graduates, it might be helpful to break down the body of your cover letter into two paragraphs (one for education, and the other for work experience).
- Concluding Paragraph:
In your final paragraph you should express your gratitude to the reader and reaffirm your interest in the position that you’re applying for. Make it clear to the reader that your goal is to meet with the hiring manager for a face-to-face interview. It might also be beneficial to express interest in what’s currently happening in the company so that the employer knows that you’re committed. As is the case in most situations, you want to end your cover letter as strong as you possibly can. Avoid phrases like “I hope to hear from you soon”, and instead use “I look forward to speaking with you soon”. Strong language shows your desire for a follow up.
Your Printed Name
Your Title (if applicable)
It is very important that you target your cover letter towards someone who actually has the ability to hire you. For example, if you happen to know a friend or family member who works at the company that you’re applying to, don’t try to apply through them. Be professional, and seek out the appropriate hiring officer.
Remember, your cover letter is a chance for YOU to show an employer who YOU are. If you believe that adding to or minimizing the content described here will enhance your chances in getting a job offer, don’t be afraid to mix it up.
Here are some things to keep in mind while writing your cover letter:
- Keep the length of your cover letter to one full page or less.
- Keep your font size and style consistent with the font used for your resume.
- Remain clear, consistent, and organized throughout the cover letter.
- Make sure that the cover letter is addressed and sent to the appropriate person at the company.
- Make sure that person’s name you are sending the resume to is spelled correctly.
- Make sure you have the correct company name.
- Use an active voice, and a positive and professional tone.
- Don’t begin all of your sentences with “I”.
- If you are emailing your application to an employer, send both your cover letter and resume as attachments, rather than copying and pasting them to the body of the email.
- If you are mailing your application, then print both your cover letter and resume on quality bond paper (8.5 x 11).
- Proofread and Edit!
- If you are mailing your application, include your signature at the bottom of the cover letter. (Don’t bother using script email text if you’re sending your application electronically).