In recent years emails and texts have slowly replaced letters until they have become a nearly extinct species. But through it all one letter has survived…the cover letter! What is this master species of letter? What does it do? Why is it so important? How do you write one?
A cover letter is typically sent to a potential employer when applying for a position. It inspires the employer to read your resume. Your cover letter should show that you are familiar with the organization, and emphasize that your experience meets the employers’ needs. Your communication skills, attention to detail, enthusiasm, and style are all demonstrated through your cover letter, so make sure it is well written. Don’t just restate what is on you resume, show how your skills make you a good match for the position.
Now that you understand what a cover letter is, it’s time to start writing.
Let’s start with the general formatting of your cover letter. Match the style of your cover letter to your resume. Use the same typeface and font style. Make sure it is easy to read and in 11 or 12 point font. The header should be in the top left corner and contain your contact information first, followed by the employer’s contact information. Begin your letter by addressing a specific person in your greeting.
Follow your greeting with your first paragraph, or introduction paragraph. This paragraph tells the employer why you’re writing to them. Include what position and field you’re applying to, and include any connections you have with the company. A sentence about why you are interested in the company can go here as well.
The next part of your cover letter is the body. This will be your second and third paragraphs. Explain why it is reasonable for you to pursue this opportunity by relating information about your background. Any experience or qualification information you provide should be tailored to the job description. Do not repeat information directly from your resume. Instead, discuss skills you have developed from the experiences on your resume. Remember the hiring professionals are looking for specific qualifications. While one paragraph is sufficient, a second paragraph my be needed if you have extensive relevant experiences.
Finally comes your fourth paragraph. In this paragraph restate your enthusiasm for the position, why you’re a good fit, and what you can bring to the organization. Express the desire to meet in person to further discuss your qualifications. Be sure to include your contact information, and thank the employer for their time and consideration.
But in a sea of cover letters, how do you catch the employer’s attention?
- Do your research.You can’t write an effective cover letter until you have researched the company and determined why you want to work there.
- Type each cover letter individually. Address it directly to the the appropriate person using their title. If there is no name given, call the company and get the name of the hiring Director of Human Resources or the Hiring Manager.
- Use action-oriented words. Try and use words that are similar to the ones in your resume to emphasize accomplishments. Using different action words and phrases throughout your letter gives it interest and depth. Make sure to include some specific skills that the employer listed in the job description.
- Avoid starting sentences with “I” or “My”. This can make you appear focused only on you; which is not a quality you want on your cover letter.
- Proof read. This is the employer’s first impression of you, don’t start out with spelling and grammar mistakes. Make sure to proof read your cover letter and don’t just rely on spell check.
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