What is a Cover Letter?
There are two things that almost all employers want from job applicants: a resume and a cover letter. Whereas your resume shows your experiences and accomplishments in a short, summarized format, your cover letter allows you to elaborate on the most relevant points and offer a detailed explanation of why you're the right fit for the job. Your cover letter also gives you a chance to demonstrate strong writing and communication skills.
A few important points to consider as you begin writing:
- You can save time on formatting by creating a cover letter template for yourself, but the content of each letter should be fully customized for each employer.
- Make sure to thoroughly research your prospective employer and the position before you start your letter.
- Take the time to construct clear, well-written sentences because the company will be evaluating your writing skills.
- Always proofread carefully for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. If possible, ask someone else to read your letter at least once before sending it.
Components of an Effective Cover Letter
Your cover letter should have four main sections: header, introduction, argument and closing.
The header should include your name and contact information (address, phone number and e-mail address), immediately followed by the date and the company's contact information. Be sure to space these far enough apart to make it clear and readable.
If possible, address the letter at the beginning of the company's contact information to a specific person. This should be the person in charge of hiring for your desired position.
Start your introduction with a salutation to the person mentioned above, such as 'Dear Ms. Smith.' If you can't determine gender from his or her name, simply include the full name in your salutation.
Use the rest of the introduction to tell the company who you are and why you're writing. This can include a brief summary of your relevant education and experience, as well as how you learned about the position and why you're interested in it. If you have a personal contact at the company who has agreed to let you use them as a reference, this can also be a good place to mention your contact.
You'll use this important section to persuade the company that you're the right person for the job. Your argument should include:
- A demonstration that you possess the skills required for the job, including soft skills such as communication and hard skills such as specific computer experience.
- References to your resume as data to support assertions about your experience, accomplishments and skills.
- Reasons why you will have a good relationship with your employer and ways in which they will benefit from hiring you.
Be sure to maintain a positive tone and include specific details about the company and the position to which you're applying. This will show that you've done your research and are invested in this particular job.
Your closing functions as a summary of your main points and a reminder of why they should hire you over other applicants. Consider restating both how your skills meet (and exceed) the position's requirements and how you will fit in well with the company's mission and goals. You can also use this space to reiterate your contact information.
Finally, always thank your readers for their consideration at the end of the closing. It shows that you respect the time they're taking to review job applications and offers a pleasant note on which to end the letter.