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How to Write a Cover Letter

write cover letter

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:

Explore this Guide:

What is a Cover Letter?
Cover Letter Format
Elements of a Cover Letter

  1. Your Name and Contact Information
  2. The Date
  3. Professional Greeting
  4. Introduction
  5. Key Experiences
  6. Conclusion
  7. Professional Closing

Cover Letter Examples

What NOT to Do in a Cover Letter
 

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:

  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Your website or online portfolio
  • Your LinkedIn account

 
name and contact info
 

The Date

Include the date you submitted or sent the letter right below your name and contact information—right before the rest of your letter.

 
date cover letter
 

Professional Greeting

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.

 
professional greeting
 

Introduction

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.

 
cover letter intro
 

Key Experiences

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:

 
key experiences
 

Conclusion

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.

 

 

Professional Closing

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:

  • Sincerely,
  • Regards,
  • Best,
  • Thank you for your consideration,

 
professional closing
 

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:

 
cover letter template
 

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!

READ MORE
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.”

How to Write a Resume

make a resume

Resumes are a very important part of the job application process.

A resume is often the first impression you’ll make on an employer and can be what gets your foot in the door and gets you that interview!

Explore this Guide:

Job seekers everywhere are panicking about how to make an effective resume so they can start seeing success from their job searching. Even if you’re just starting out in your field you still want a professional resume that will clearly show any hiring manager what you can bring to the table.

What is a Resume?

A resume comes from the French word, résumé, meaning outline. Now we spell it without the accents and use it to refer to an outline of our work history, expertise, and skills.

Resume is pronounced re-zeh-may, or “re-zə-mā” if you understand the phonetic alphabet. Either way you can easily listen to the pronunciation of the word at Merriam-Webster.com.

Resume Objective

The objective of a resume is to show a potential employer, an easy-to-read, brief outline of why you qualify for the job. They want to see a quick glance at your career, accomplishments, and what skills and qualifications you’ve gained so far.

It is a formal document showing your professional life thus far, that a potential employer uses to make an educated decision about whether you merit an in-person interview or not. When creating a resume you’ll want to make sure it includes all the information an employer would need to make this decision.

Create a Master Resume

It’s a good idea to create a master resume where you simply write everything you could ever put on a resume. This can also be considered a curriculum vitae (CV)—a lengthier version of a resume that isn’t meant to be an overview, but instead a thorough outline of all your experience, certifications, awards, achievements, projects, and publications. A CV or master resume, is meant to be a complete history of your academic and professional career, endeavors, and accomplishments. You want to keep a copy of your master resume, or CV, because different jobs are going to necessitate you include different information, depending on the job.

For instance, if you’re applying for a job where you’ll be designing someone’s website, you won’t need to include the cashier job you had as a teenager. But if you’re applying for a job in customer service, then the employer will want to know that you have that customer service experience as a cashier.

You also only want your resume to be a page long, but a resume with absolutely all the experience you’ve ever had in your life is going to eventually be longer than a page, so keeping all this information in one place on your master resume is a good idea to have as a reference.

resume example

Resume Sections

There are a few key sections that go into every professional resume. Once you have a master resume to work from you can start putting everything into these main sections.

Personal Info

Somewhere near the top of your resume, you want to put your name on the center stage of your resume so the employer can easily know right away who they are looking at. Then you can kind of introduce yourself briefly by including a personal bio section that may list your personal interests and hobbies. If you’re including a cover letter on the front of your resume, you can also put this personal introduction there instead.

Contact Info

You’ll also want to include your preferred contact information on your resume. This information is usually so that they can contact you in case they want to offer you a job interview, so make sure you put down the best way for them to contact you for this. Usually this includes your phone number and email address.

Your email address on a resume should be simple and professional. If you don’t already have an email username with your name instead of a TV reference, then it’s time to make one for professional purposes like this.

You can also include other ways for them to get to know you and see your qualifications if those apply for you. If you have a personal website, or an online portfolio you can include that here too. You can also include any professional accounts you have, like your LinkedIn profile.

Experience

Here is where you outline your job history. You don’t necessarily need to include every job you’ve ever had, sometimes it makes more sense to show the work experience that most applies to the job you’re applying for now.

You also want to list your work experience in reverse chronological order, meaning that the job you had most recently goes first, and the oldest job experience goes last. This way you are putting the most relevant information, the most recent and therefore most applicable information up front.
When listing each job you’ll want to include the following information:

  • Job title (the title you had at this job)
  • Company name
  • Location
  • Job description (what were your main duties at this job, and what did you accomplish there)
Education

This section is where you outline your education. Many people have questions about what to include and not include in the education section, like when do you stop putting your high school education on your resume? Once you have a bachelors or associates degree you are usually ok to stop including your high school education on your resume.

Your high school education is a basic education that everyone receives, so there really isn’t anything specific about it that applies to your future job. And once you’ve officially gained some form of higher education an employer can easily assume you also have a high school education, but it’s what you did in your higher education, what you studied and learned specifically there, that interests them now.

  • When listing your education you want to include the following:
  • The name of the school
  • The years you were there
  • What degree you have (associates, bachelors, masters) and in what

If you haven’t finished college yet you can include your estimated future graduation date and what you are studying, meaning your majors and minors.

Achievements

You don’t have to just put down jobs that you’ve had though, also put down any other achievements, accomplishments, awards, or community involvement that might be important for employers to know. If you’ve published anything before here is the place to list that. Any volunteer work you’ve done. Any licenses, certificates, or other special training you may have, including if you speak another language.

Skills

When making your skills section the first thing you want to do is look into what skills are involved in the job you’re looking for. Job ads usually list the kinds of skills they are looking for in an applicant. If any of these skills apply to you be sure to include them.
The skills section should include both hard and soft skills.

Hard skills are specific abilities and knowledge that you have, like knowing how to use Photoshop.

Soft skills are useful attributes, like being organized or friendly.

Then, if you have room, don’t just list these skills, but provide examples to show how you do indeed have these skills. These examples can also be included on your cover letter instead, where you’ll have more room to tell key experiences that prove you have these skills.

For example, if one of your skills is that you know how to use Photoshop, you can also say that you used Photoshop to design a poster in your most recent job. Or if you list that you are organized, you can briefly talk about how you created a new filing system at your last job.

Design a Resume

You can make your resume on Microsoft Word, on Google Docs, or even online. Both Microsoft Word and Google Docs have free-to-use resume templates that can also work as good examples of how to professionally format your resume.

Resume Template Websites

How you design your resume is how you’re going to make your resume stand out. But this doesn’t mean you should make your resume flashy, in fact you should do the opposite. Your resume’s audience doesn’t want to be distracted by too many colors or graphics, they want to focus first on the information that is most important, so center your design around the information itself.

Create a Path for the Eye to Follow

You want your resume to be easy to read. One way to accomplish this is to create a path for your reader to follow. We read left to right, so this path tends to make a kind of Z shape on the page.

Make it Organized

Use bullet points to help organize your lists. Use headings with a clear heading hierarchy so the sections and subsections are clear.

Use a 10–12 Point Font Size

This way your font size won’t be too small to read, but it also won’t be silly looking by being too large.

How to Make a Resume for a First Job

If you are making a resume for a first job then you may not have a lot of experience yet to fill out your work history. A resume for someone just entering the job arena is often called an entry-level resume or a student resume if you are still going through school.

But the experience section of your resume isn’t just for your work history. You can put all kinds of other useful experiences there as well. You can list programs, clubs, and organizations you’ve been a part of, or volunteer work you’ve done. For example, you may not a previous job to list in the experience section, but maybe you were the president of the horticultural club, or the lead flutist in the concert band. You can replace your work experience with these types of high school experiences instead.

Another approach you can take to fill out your resume as an inexperienced student is to make your resume more skill focused than experience focused. If you can’t list any jobs than you can list different skills you have and describe how you gained those skills.

You can list your high school experiences in the same way you would list a job, including the following information:

  • Your Title (Volunteer, Club Secretary)
  • Company/Organization Name (National Honors Society)
  • Location
  • Description (what were your main duties, what did you accomplish)

How to Make a Resume for College

If you’re in college, or freshly out of college, you may also run into a unique problem when creating a resume. Your experience section is also going to look different because you may not have a lot of jobs to list. But college provides tons of exceptional experiences that you can include in a resume instead of jobs. You can list internships you’ve done, or apprenticeships. You can talk about capstone classes and the major projects and research you did for these key courses, and show how these classes have prepared and trained you for a job. You can also talk about any programs, clubs, and organizations you were apart of during your college career.

In the accomplishments section, be sure to include all the certifications you’ve received while in school. Today, successfully obtaining degrees and certificates from your college classes can mean a lot to a potential employer. If you received any awards, special honors, or published your work in a student journal you can include these kinds of accomplishments as well. You can even include your GPA in your college resume if you have a particularly high GPA to boast about.

How to Make a Cover Letter for a Resume

It is always a good idea to include a cover letter when you send an employer your resume. A cover letter is formatted like a formal letter consists of these main points,

  • Your name
  • Your contact information
  • The date
  • Professional greeting
  • A brief paragraph about yourself
  • A paragraph or two for key experiences where you prove your skills
  • Conclusion
  • Professional closing

To create a winning resume all you have to do is follow the advice in this article and remember the whole point of a resume—to show what you have to offer in a brief, clear, straightforward way. Meanwhile, if you’re in between jobs and need some financial help, feel free to check out Check City’s Personal Loans.

READ MORE
Check out another great article about writing a resume, “How to Make a Resume for a Job.”

Read another Check City article about getting a new job, “New Year, New Job.”

How to Choose a Career

choose a career

What career you choose determines what major you study while in college. It influences what life you can afford and what you spend so much of your time doing each week of your life until retirement.

Choosing a career is a big decision to make and high school seniors each year are stressing out about how to go about deciding their future. But deciding a career path doesn’t need to be too stressful. Finding your passion is largely about self-awareness and researching all your options. By following the suggestions below you can decide your future career with ease.

Explore this Article

  1. Understand Yourself
  2. Research Options
  3. Weigh Options
  4. Make a Plan

Understand Yourself

self introspection

Becoming more self-aware can be especially difficult for younger, high school students who are still figuring out so much about who they are. But this journey into self-exploration can be fun and eye opening too! You want to discover and record your skills, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and passions.

Start exploring the things you love right now. This is the first part of the journey that leads you to a career you’ll love. You also want to know your values, or what you will and won’t do in a job.

This is where learning more about your personality type will come in handy. For instance, if you are more introverted, then working with customers may be on your list of things you don’t want in a job. If you love being up on your feet then having a more hands-on job might be on your list of things you do want in a job.

Taking the Myers Briggs Personality Test might help you better understand key aspects of your personality.

If you have trouble finding these personal answers within yourself, there are some things you can do to find the answers.

Ask Yourself Questions

Giving yourself an introspective interview can really help learn more about yourself. Questions are good because they help you analyze yourself and what you do and don’t like. It also helps you look at yourself more realistically. You may like the idea of being a lawyer, but you have to ask yourself if you are willing to do all that is necessary to become a lawyer, and if you’ll really be happy with the required daily tasks of a lawyer.

Questions help you see patterns and become more self-aware, which is paramount to finding a career path for you. They also help you to know what you would like in a job (so you can accumulate a list of options) and what you wouldn’t like in a job (so you can cancel certain options out).

To conduct your introspective interview you can ask yourself the following questions, or you can have someone else ask them while you respond and talk about your answers together.

  • If I could choose one friend to trade jobs with, I’d choose __, because __.
  • I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do __. It’s interesting to me because __.
  • If I had the right education or skill set, I’d definitely try __, because __.
  • If I had to go back to school tomorrow, I’d major in __, because __.
  • My co-workers and friends always say I’m great at __, because __.
  • The thing I love most about my current job is __, because __.
  • If my boss would let me, I’d do more of __, because __.
  • If I had a free Saturday that had to be spent “working” on something, I’d choose __, because __.
  • When I retire, I want to be known for __, because __.
Take an Aptitude Test

There are lots of online career tests you can take. A career quiz will give you ideas about what fields and jobs that might be right for you.

You’ll be asked questions to determine your skills and interests. Then the test will pair your results with careers that best fit your answers. You can then weigh these different options and research them to help you pick one. Below are two free tests you can take right now:

The MAPP Career Assessment

Career Aptitude Test

Research Options

research careers

After you have some options in mind you can learn about your choices in order to make an informed final decision. Don’t only research specific jobs though. This can be really helpful, but think about broader fields of work as well.

There are fields of work and then there are jobs in those fields. Sometimes deciding a field of work first will help you find the specific job you’re looking for.

Types of Careers
  • Arts and Communication
  • Business
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Humanities
  • Law and Government
  • Medical
  • Science
  • Social Services

Once you’ve decided on a career field, you can narrow your search down to a specific job in that field. Deciding which job to pick is easier if you read the requirements or the responsibilities for each job, and see if they interest you. You can search actual job openings to find the most common real-world requirements involved. Indeed and ZipRecruiter are two popular job search websites where you can see real postings for the careers you’re interested in.

You can research other important aspects of the career by visiting PayScale.com. This website has surveys about almost every profession imaginable, and can tell you things like average salary, what people on the high end of the job get paid vs the lower end. You can even search by your location and experience to assess how much you can expect to get paid.

They also list the skills that are most important to the field, the tasks and requirements involved, how people review the job, gender percentages in the field, and the health benefits you generally get. It’ll even show you related jobs and jobs in your area and it’s all shown to you in pretty, simple graphics.

Do Internships and Job Shadowing

Internships and job shadowing can be a great way to get some hands-on experience with the careers you’re interested in. Often your school advisers can help you find internships and job shadowing opportunities near you.

Conduct an Informational Interview

If you don’t have the time for internships and job shadowing, you can conduct an informational interview. It’s like a reversed job interview. You visit with someone who has the job you’re interested in, and you ask them a series of questions to get a feel for their job, what they did to get where they are, and any other insights or advice they might have for you. Here are some example questions you could ask from the Berkeley University of California:

  • What are your main responsibilities as a…?
  • What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
  • What do you like most about your work?
  • What do you like least about your work?
  • What kinds of problems do you deal with?
  • What kinds of decisions do you make?
  • How does your position fit within the organization/career field/industry?
  • How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
  • What current issues and trends in the field should I know about/be aware of?
  • What are some common career paths in this field?
  • What kinds of accomplishments tend to be valued and rewarded in this field?
  • What related fields do you think I should consider looking into?
  • How did you become interested in this field?
  • How did you begin your career?
  • How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?
  • What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
  • How relevant to your work is your undergraduate major?
  • What kind of education, training, or background does your job require?
  • What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?
  • What is the profile of the person most recently hired at my level?
  • What are the most effective strategies for seeking a position in this field?
  • Can you recommend trade journals, magazines or professional associations which would be helpful for my professional development?
  • If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change?
  • I’ve read that the entry-level salary range for this field is usually in the range of ______? Does this fit with what you’ve seen? (Don’t ask about the person’s actual salary.)
  • What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?
  • Can you suggest anyone else I could contact for additional information?

Weigh Options

weigh options

Now that you have a couple choices in mind, and have done your due diligence learning all about each one, you have to make a final decision. When making this final decision about your future, it’s important that you keep certain things in mind.

Think about the future, retirement, the family life you want. Think about what you would like your life to be known for and any other long-term goals you may have for your life. Will this career choice help you reach those goals?

Make sure you take priority over what you want to do over any societal expectations pressed upon you. After all, you are the one who’s going to live with this career.

Make a Plan

make plan

If you’re graduating high school and starting college soon, then you’ll want to not only pick a college but a major, and possibly minor, that will be useful for the field you want to go into. You can also start taking advantage of high school and college advisers and mentors if your school has a program like that. These counselors can act as career coaches to help you map out your career path.

In your research and studies you should figure out the steps, milestones, and requirements that people in your field must go through. Then you can plan these steps out in your own life. Record these plans in a place or a calendar that you can easily revisit and adjust as needed. Plan is a great website that can connect to your gmail or outlook account to help you plan your future effectively in one easy to use space. If you need some help planning financially, a Check City Personal Loan may be able to help you as well.

choose a career

Whether you are a college freshman looking to decide on a career path for the first time, or a seasoned career veteran looking for your dream job, the process is going to look about the same. By following this guidance you can learn more about yourself and discover what career path is the best for you, and find happiness and success in your professional life.

READ MORE

Check out “How to Change Careers in 3 Simple Steps” to learn some other steps to changing careers.

Read “11 Important Qualities to Have When Changing Careers” to see what skills almost all professions are looking for today.


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