To be considered for some positions, you will be asked to submit a cover letter—and even when a letter is not required, you should consider writing one. This letter:
- Allows you to introduce yourself.
- Shares why you’re interested in this position.
- Lets you demonstrate your knowledge of the organization (which you’ve gained by researching the employer).
- Highlights a few key aspects of your background (education, experiences, skills) that best fit the position.
- Lets you describe soft skills (e.g. quick learner, effective communicator) that are not fully captured in your resume.
- Showcases your writing ability.
A well-written cover letter can set you apart from your competition, allowing you the opportunity to show your passion and personality in a way that your resume cannot.
Make Your Letter Stand Out
- If possible, address it to a person instead of “To whom it may concern.” Sometimes the contact person’s name is on the website or in the position description. More often, you will have to call the organization’s front desk or Human Resources department.
- Analyze the position description carefully and highlight key words and phrases. As with your resume, infuse these buzzwords into your document.
- Try to match your experience and expertise to the job requirements point by point, selecting your strongest qualifications that match the position requirements.
- Tailor your letter to each position and employer, underscoring your relevant skills and experience as well as your knowledge of and interest in the employer. Do not mass produce your cover letter; no two cover letters should look the same!
- Convey passion, enthusiasm, and personality by being authentic; however, make sure the tone reflects the culture of your field. If you’re applying to work for a bank, for example, your tone may be more reserved.
- Suggest an action plan. Request an interview, and indicate when you will follow up. (Unless you are on a strict timeline, one or two weeks is typical.)
- Thank your audience for his or her time and consideration.
Purpose of Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter is an important component of the application process. It serves as a way for you to summarize your qualifications, state your interest in a position, and stand out from other applicants. It is specific to each opportunity you are pursuing.
Cover letters should be well written and always accompanied by each resume you send out unless otherwise specified. It is particularly important to include a cover letter, if an objective is not listed on your resume, to be clear on what position you are interested in.
Tips for Writing Your Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter can be overwhelming. Focus your efforts and include content that is concise, relevant, and appealing to potential employers.
- While every cover letter is different, effective cover letters demonstrate you are a good fit for the position.
- Convey your enthusiam for the positon and knowledge of the company.
- Provide support and examples that showcase the skills and competencies that are being sought.
- Focus on your accomplishments and measurable results.
Follow standard business writing protocol.
- Address your cover letter to a specific person whenever possible. It may take some resourcefulness on your part to identify the appropriate person, but the letter will be better received.
- Write clearly and concisely.
- Use proper grammar and check for misspelled words.
- Limit your letter to one page.
- Be sure to include the date, an appropriate salutation, and closure with your signature.
Do not mass produce.
- Mass produced cover letters are easy to detect. Be sure to relate your specific skills and experiences to each indivdual position.
- Incorporate information that reflects your knowledge of the company, the industry, or the position.
- Consider that employers are seeking to fill specific roles and are looking for applicants that have the skills and qualities to succeed in that role.
Structuring Your Cover Letter
Follow these guidelines to ensure your cover letter is properly structured.
Paragraph 1: Capture Attention
- In your first paragraph, capture the reader's attention.
- Indicate the position you are applying for and how you learned of the vacancy, i.e. Did someone tell you about it? Did you see an ad or website?
- Outline the specific reasons why you are ideal for the position.
- Sell yourself in paragraph 1. Do not wait until the second paragraph to articulate why you are well qualified for the position.
Paragraph 2 & 3: Create Desire
- Describe yourself as a serious candidate and one worth inviting for an interview. State the hard details including your specific skills, history of responsibility, success, etc.
- Think about ways to reinforce an image of yourself that includes as many of the desired qualities as possible.
- Show, don’t tell. Remember, your goal is to set yourself apart from other applicants. Do not just tell the employer you have a skill, provide evidence. For example, do not just state you are “detail oriented”. Give the reader an example of something in your work history that proves that you are detail oriented.
- Refer to your resume, but do not simply list the contents of it.
- Emphasize how your variety of experiences are connected to the position and will benefit the company.
Paragraph 4: Call for Action
- Use a few lines to express your strong interest in the position and your desire to discuss your application further in an interview.
- Give a brief summary of the key points in the letter, but avoid repetition.