How to Write a Cover Letter

Oct 19, 2018
Student working on computer

If you are applying for a job, it is essential to include a cover letter with your resume. This letter will allow you to convey why you should be considered for a job over other candidates. 

The cover letter is essentially a paper version of a sales pitch. You are convincing the recruiter or hiring manager to call you for an interview. The only time a cover letter should not be included is when a job ad clearly says to not include one, and that is very rare. 

A cover letter and a resume are not the same thing. A resume summarizes your previous jobs, education, certifications, and skills. A cover letter allows you to convey subjective information such as the basis of your interest in the position. 

Cover letters demonstrate your knowledge of the organization. By mentioning the organization’s mission/values, recent accomplishments, or unique characteristics, you are demonstrating that you did your research and spent extensive time on this cover letter (it was not just a mass email). 

Cover letters also show your genuine interest in the organization and position. While a resume shows your ability to do the job, a cover letter reveals your motivation to do the job and your excitement about the organization. 

If you know someone in the company, be sure to mention his or her first and last name, department, and how you know them in the first paragraph of your cover letter.

While your resume should demonstrate your attention to detail, it does not demonstrate your ability to write professionally or persuasively. A cover letter gives you the chance to shine in terms of your writing ability.

Cover letters also allow you to show how your unique talents would add value to the company. Sometimes your previous experience is not directly related to the job for which you are applying. In the cover letter, you can highlight ways that your experiences developed you and convey transferable skills you possess that are needed for the job. 

The basic outline of a cover letter includes a greeting, a few paragraphs, and a signature.

The greeting can include phrases like, “To whom it concerns,” or “Dear Human Resources Team,” or “Dear Ms. Fisher,” etc. Whatever you choose, just keep it professional.

In the first paragraph, you should state the purpose of the letter and the position you are seeking. If you know someone within the company, now is the time to include their name in the letter and how you know them. Add their job title or the department they work in. Next, include a short explanation of why you are a good fit for the company.

In the middle paragraph, it is best to compliment the company. Here you can demonstrate that you know the company’s mission, values, recent projects, and accomplishments. Next you should show how you fit with the company and why you are interested. After that, you can describe your work ethic, skills, credentials, and most importantly, a genuine desire to work there. 

The final paragraph should reiterate your interest and plan to follow-up. Be sure that you reference your resume so the recruiter associates your desire with your experience. Express your interest for potential meetings or interviews in the future. Always close with a sentence expressing your gratitude.

The end of your cover letter should include your signature. Sign your name, scan, and send the document to yourself, and then submit as a PDF to the employer.

Example Cover Letter

Dear (Hiring Manager name),

I would like to express my great interest in the (name of position) with (name of company). In conversations with (contact name and position), I have learned of (list recent company accomplishments). I am confident that the company team’s values and objectives would highly complement my own strengths and enthusiasm. I would like to be considered for your (name of position) and believe I would be a great fit.

I was impressed to learn of (name of company’s) recent (company accomplishment), a tactic which I see as indicative of (positive trait of the company). Innovative and exciting approaches such as this, coupled with your highly regarded (specific department), convinced me that (name of company) is the ideal environment to begin my business career. Evidence of my leadership and (other skills) can be seen in my responsibilities as a (current occupation) at (name of company), and my commitment to my academics. My educational background in (specific major), combined with my internship experiences, have been excellent preparation for this career.

Please review the enclosed resume and references and consider my application for your (name of position). I would truly appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and explore the company environment, as well as possible job opportunities at (name of company). I will call your office next week to discuss these possibilities. I look forward to exchanging ideas with you concerning a career at (name of company) and the positive contributions I would offer as a member of your organization. Thank you so much for your consideration.

Sincerely,

(signature)

(Print your name)

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