Cover letters. As much as they require more work, cover letters are a great opportunity to cover qualifications we can’t fully explain in our resumes. In addition, they help personalize job applicants to enable them to come across more as real people to potential employers. If you throw together a cover letter in the hopes that nobody will actually read it, you might be missing a chance to land the job. To take advantage of a cover letter’s full potential, follow these steps below. You’ll find advice on formatting, reviewing, and researching cover letters. You will also find links to three free samples, which you can copy and adapt to your own personal cover letter.
[Edit]Sample Cover Letters
Here are some well-written sample letters you can copy and use as a starting point.
[Edit]Write an Email Cover Letter
- Include a salutation. There are a number of cover letters to choose from. And, the greeting you choose will depend on how much information you have about the company.
- Write the first paragraph of your letter. This is where you will mention the job for which you’re applying and how you found the job listing. It only needs to be 1 to 2 sentences in length.
- Write the body paragraphs of your letter. Most cover letters will only have 1 or 2 body paragraphs. You don’t want to overwhelm the hiring manager or use up a great deal of their time.
- Write the final paragraph of your letter. This will be where you wrap up and discuss how you will proceed with the application. Your final paragraph is your chance to sum up your letter, emphasizing why you’d be great in this position. You’ll also talk about how you’ll proceed with your application before thanking the manager for their time and signing off.
- End your cover letter with a respectful closing statement.
are both classic options. Also, since you won’t be able to sign your email, finish the letter by typing your full name.
[Edit]Write a Paper Cover Letter
- Add a letterhead at the top of the letter. Your letterhead should include your full name, address, telephone number, and email address. You can align your letterhead along the left hand margin or place it horizontally across the top of the page with a separating line—a good option if you want it to take up less space.
- Write the recipient’s name, address, and the date below the letterhead. It doesn’t matter whether you put the date first or last, or how many blank lines you include between them, as long as it looks professional.
- From here on out, use 12-point Arial or Times New Roman throughout the entire letter, set your margins to one inch, and use single spacing. Be sure your font is black, and if you’re printing your letter out, use standard-sized paper (8 1/2” by 11”).
- Address the recipient. Be sure to refer to the recipient by his or her proper title (Mrs., Mr., Dr., etc.). If you’re not sure who the recipient is, write, “To Whom It May Concern:” or “Dear Sir or Madam”; however, it is always best to address a cover letter to a real person to make it look like you’re not sending form letters.
- State your purpose in the first paragraph. Tell the employer why you are writing to them in two or three sentences. State the position for which you are applying (or the one you would like to have should it become available).
- You don’t necessarily need to include how you became aware of the position unless it was through a mutual contact or recruiting program—in which case you should make the most of the connection.
- If you are writing a letter of interest (also known as a prospecting or inquiry letter) in which you are asking about positions that might be available, specify why you are interested in working for the employer.
- Outline your qualifications in the middle paragraph(s). Make sure to match them to the requirements of the position. If you are writing to inquire about open positions, tell the employer how you can contribute to their bottom line, not what you want to get out of the deal. To do this, use what you have researched about the employer’s background and history.
- Include a positive statement or question in the final paragraph that will motivate the employer to contact you. Make this closing paragraph
between two and four sentences.
Direct the employer to your enclosed resume and make sure you specify that you’re available for an interview. Finish off by thanking the recruiter for their time and consideration, and welcome them to get in touch with you to continue the conversation.
- Write an appropriate closing. It’s a good idea to thank the reader for his or her time. After that, write “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” or “Regards,” leave several spaces, and print your name.
- Add your signature. If you will be submitting your cover letter digitally, it’s a good idea to scan and add your signature, write it in with a digital writing pad, or make a digital signature stamp with appropriate software.
- Make a notation of the enclosures. If you enclose something, such as a resume, with a letter, you should indicate that the letter contains enclosures by making the notation “Enclosure” or “Enclosures” at the bottom of the letter.
[Edit]Review Your Cover Letter
- Spell-check and proofread. If you have a spell-check feature, use it. Some programs, such as Microsoft Word, also include a grammar check that you should use. Proofread your letter yourself.
- Read your letter aloud to hear how it reads. Do not rely on the spelling and grammar checks to catch mistakes.
Consider asking a friend, or even two, to proofread your letter as well.
If no one is available to help, another good strategy is to spend some time away from your final draft (a few hours or even a whole day) so that you can return to it with a fresh perspective.
[Edit]Checklist for Preparing Your Cover Letter
- Double-check some of the most-overlooked basics before you do anything. While misspelling or misidentifying the name of the company you’re applying to isn’t the end of the world, it’s not exactly starting off on the right foot. Double-check the following:
- The complete name of the company to which you are applying for a job
- The name of the person to whom you are addressing the cover letter
- The address of the person to whom you are sending the letter
- The title of the job for which you are applying and/or its reference number, if it exists
- Ask yourself what skills do you possess that you are not using enough in your current role. Would the ideal candidate for this new role be required to make more use of those types of skills? What opportunities are missing in your current role? Answering these questions will help you explain why you are interested in leaving current position. For example, are you looking for:
- “room for advancement”
- “an opportunity to learn new skills”
- Hammer down your current job or educational position. This may seem like an obvious question, but knowing how to clearly define your current role is a tremendous asset. For example, you could be a:
- “graduate student in environmental science”
- “customer service professional specializing in the high-end retail market”
- Provide a general description of your accomplishments/experiences in the field to which you are applying. For example, you could have:
- “fifteen years of excellent customer service experience”
- “an outstanding background in scientific research and discovery”
- “a solid history of dependability in the automotive industry”
- Identify the assets can you offer to the company to which you are applying. List a few in your cover letter, such as:
- “extensive experience with start-ups”
- “demonstrated ability to solve problems”
- “refined ability to manage teams”
- What will you help the company accomplish, if given the job you desire?
- “increase its bottom line”
- “meet its goal of providing only the best in customer service”
- “expand its customer base and increase its revenue”
- Specify the type of job or level of the position you are seeking. Is it:
- “senior level”
- Tweak your cover letter depending upon your target. If you are applying for specific jobs then make it as relevant as possible. Include the job reference number and address your cover letter directly to the company contact (if you have their name). Alternatively, if you are applying speculatively you can start with the salutation ‘Dear Sirs,’ and finish with ‘Yours faithfully’ rather than ‘Sincerely’
- Consider name-dropping if you are confident that the person you know at the company you are applying to will vouch for you. Sometimes a bit of inside help does go a long way, so don’t dismiss this option if it is open to you.
- Be concise. Never use two words when one will do. Always strike the word “very” and eliminate the word “that” as much as you can.
- Do not overdo the style elements. Choose a font that is simple but elegant. Avoid uncommon decorative fonts unless you are applying for a job where being quirky is of greater value than being businesslike and the people who are doing the hiring are on board with this philosophy.
- Make sure your cover letter is visually appealing and coordinated with your resume. Use the same personal information block in the heading of your cover letter and your resume. A cohesive resume package is a very attractive selling point. If using paper (i.e., not online), use the same high quality paper for the cover letter as for your resume.
- This is not your autobiography. Keep it well under a page.
- Avoid generic, empty language (“I will bring a depth of experience,” or “I believe my qualifications and experience suit the demands of the position”). Be specific and concrete about what you can bring to the position.
- Be careful not to overplay your cover letter’s role in the job application process. Yes, a good cover letter is important and a well-written cover letter should help entice the employer to read your resume. Even so, you should still be aware that your resume/CV is the main player, whereas the cover letter’s role is a supporting one. If you get the balance wrong and place too much emphasis on the cover letter (making it too long and complex), then it could deter the employer from reading your resume.
- If you’re doing a thorough job search, you will get rejected sometimes. If you’re not getting rejected, you’re not putting yourself out there enough. In addition, if you don’t learn to see rejection as a chance to improve your approach, then you’ll have a very difficult time getting a job.
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