A cover letter sent in along with your resume, is a key tool for eager job seekers who want to stand out amidst their competitors. Having a cover letter in your job application can be just what an employer needs to really get to know you and see what you have to offer.
When you effectively include the key sections listed below, you can create an effective cover letter that ensures the employer has everything they need to see how qualified you are:
- Your Name and Contact Information
- The Date
- Professional Greeting
- Key Experiences
- Professional Closing
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is like the front page of your resume, but in letter form. You write it just like a regular letter, but include certain things related to your resume and the particular job you are applying for.
Cover letters are often used because your resume is only a page long so you might not have room on your resume to explain a lot of things. A cover letter summarizes the most important aspects of your resume, or the most important qualifications you’d like to highlight.
A cover letter also gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself a little more, and explain important aspects of your resume and why you want this job.
Cover Letter Format
Though not every job ad requests it, it is always a good idea to include a cover letter when you send an employer your resume. Like your resume, a cover letter is a single page and consists of 3 to 5 paragraphs.
When writing a cover letter it is also wise to research the company because just going off the job ad isn’t enough. Look up the company and try and learn a bit about them. This can help you make the letter specific since employers prefer it when an applicant seems to specifically want this job, not just any job.
Make a master cover letter where you store all the brief paragraphs you write to outline certain skills, so that when you go to write a letter for a specific job, you can pull from there. Sometimes certain experiences will relate to more than one job application, so these paragraphs can be reused.
Still, always read through your cover letter before sending it to make sure there aren’t any references that don’t apply to that specific job application. Each letter should be written for that job in mind, and shouldn’t sound like a reused template.
Elements of a Cover Letter
Just like a resume, a cover letter has key sections that are always included.
Your Name and Contact Information
Put your first and last name at the top of the cover letter, on center stage, in a similar way to how you put your name at the top of your resume. This way, if the two papers should get separated they’ll still be distinguishable as a unit because of this similarity. It will also leave the readers with no confusion about who they are reading about.
Then you’ll want to place your contact information below your name, just like how you did on your resume. You can think of your name and contact information as the header of your job application documents, present on each page for optimal clarity.
Contact information to include:
- Phone number
- Your website or online portfolio
- Your LinkedIn account
Include the date you submitted or sent the letter right below your name and contact information—right before the rest of your letter.
There are several ways you can address your letter. If you are able to find out the name of who would be receiving your letter or who the hiring manager would be, then you can address them by name.
But more often than not, we aren’t able to know such specific information in the application process. When this happens, you can simply address your letter by the name of the corporation with whom you are applying.
You can also use a general term like, “to whom it may concern,” but this might be seen as too impersonal or like you didn’t research the company enough.
First, introduce yourself. Write a brief paragraph about yourself, introducing some key information they’ll want to know—like who you are and what you’ve been doing with your career so far.
For instance, you can tell them if you’re a student, if you’re looking for a career change, or if you’re looking for a new job in a new area after moving.
Second, tell them how you came across the job opening. Maybe you found it on indeed, or knew someone who referred you to the job opening.
Third, tell them why you want this job. Briefly explain why you are interested in this particular job and what caused you to apply for it.
This section should only be a small paragraph—just a couple sentences to briefly outline the three items mentioned above.
In the main body of your letter you’re going to talk about two or three key experiences that prove your skills. This may be the most important section of your cover letter. If a cover letter is the written form of your resume, then this would be the experience and skills section combined into one.
Here is where you’re going to outline choice experiences that illustrate important skills and abilities. Give real life examples that prove your qualifications. Be careful about which experiences you decide to write about, and make sure they are relevant to what the employer would be looking for.
Below is a sample template of how you could format these paragraphs:
The closing paragraph should be as brief as your introduction, if not shorter. It is where you place your call to action. But since this is a job application you have to be careful how you frame this call to action. If you’re too pushy or seem arrogant, you could give a negative impression to the employer before they even meet you.
Simply let them know that you would be happy and willing to come in for an interview, or be contacted for any additional information they may need.
Framing your call to action this way invites them to act on your cover letter, without making demands or assumptions about your acceptance.
Now it’s time to wrap up your letter with a professional closing. Here are some examples of professional letter closing phrases you can use in a cover letter for a resume:
- Thank you for your consideration,
Cover Letter Examples
Unlike a resume, there aren’t any websites that will let you simply plug in information while their template arranges your cover letter for you. You have to write it yourself. But here’s an example of a basic cover letter template you can use to help you write:
People also often wonder how to write a cover letter if they’re still in high school, or if they’re applying for an internship instead of a job. Either way the main principles of your cover letter will be the same. The only main difference will be in the key experiences section.
Cover Letters for High School
If you are a high school student, or lack work experience, get creative and use other experiences you have. Maybe you don’t have stories from a past job, but you were in the marching band where you learned about hard work and dedication. You can talk about these kinds of experiences instead.
Cover Letters for an Internship
If you are applying for an internship instead of a job, make sure you understand what the internship is all about, and the kind of tasks they’ll want you to do. Showing you understand what the internship entails will help them take you more seriously as a candidate.
Then you can talk about the things you are learning in your college classes that make you a good candidate for the program.
You should also talk about how you plan to use this internship to further your professional career, so that they can see all you plan to gain from this program.
What NOT to Do in a Cover Letter
Here’s a list of some things you should never do in a cover letter:
- Don’t send the same exact cover letter in every job application. This can make you look detached and sloppy if there’s ever something on it that relates to a different job you previously applied for.
- Don’t use a casual voice, or any slang.
- Proofread! Make sure you thoroughly edit your cover letter before sending it so there are no spelling mistakes, run on sentences, or any other mistakes or oversights.
- Don’t be pushy. You want to sell yourself in your cover letter, but if you do so in a demanding way you could make a bad impression.
If you’re worried about how you come across in your cover letter, it’s always a good idea to have some other people read it too. They can give their impression of you through the letter and make sure you’re portraying yourself in the correct light and clearly getting your points across.
Having a second or third set of eyes look over your cover letter is also a great way to make sure you don’t miss any spelling or grammar mistakes.
Meanwhile, if you’re still in between jobs, you can always take out a Check City Personal Loan to tide you over while you write your killer resume and cover letter to land that great new job!
Don’t forget to check out Check City’s other article on how to write your resume, “How to Make a Resume.”
Take a look at GlassDoor’s article about cover letters, “How to Write A Cover Letter.”
Learn some other cover letter tactics, “How to Write a Cover Letter.”