A cover letter introduces you to an employer through a personalized explanation of your qualifications and interest in a position. While a resume shares the technical details of your skills and work experience, a cover letter gives insight into your soft skills, attitude, and motivations. Employers use cover letters to get a sense of how well each candidate would fit in with their company culture and use their experience to accomplish the requirements of a position. Strong cover letter writers provide a clear connection between your goals and a company's values.
The cover letter is usually the first item an employer reads from you. The letter should immediately indicate what position one is applying for and then give information that demonstrates why one should be considered for the position. One must not repeat all of the information contained in the resume. Instead, highlighting or elaborating on resume items that are directly applicable to the position for which one is applying is something that should be done. The following information should be included in a cover letter.
- Header containing information about self-The cover letter must begin with the contact information. It should be in block style, on the left margin of your paper, towards the top, and contain your name, current home address, and telephone number. Regardless of the exact format you use, a header should start with your name and include your email, phone number, and address on separate lines. Some people include links to their portfolio or social media if that information is relevant to the position.
- Date- The date must be included in the cover letter as one would do with any business letter.
- Contact Person's Name, Title, Employer, and Address- Including a specific name can get the letter and resume to the hiring manager more quickly and can be an effective personal touch. If one is applying for an advertised position that does not give a name to contact, one must call the company and ask for the department manager's name.
- Salutation- The salutation or greeting of your cover letter is the first chance to differentiate yourself from other applicants by addressing the correct person. One must research the name of the hiring manager for each position to show that they have put thought and effort into your application. One can often find this information within the job listing, on the company website, or by calling their office and asking.
- An appropriate way must be chosen to address the contact person.
- Dear Mr. Johns (if a man's name is the contact)
- Dear Ms. Smith (if a woman's name is the contact)
- Dear Prospective Employer (if there is no contact name)
- Opening Paragraph- The first paragraph of your cover letter should provide the basic details about who you are and why you want the job. In the opening paragraph, one must mention how they learned about the position. One may, for example, know of a job through:
- a classified advertisement
- an unsolicited mailing
- the Internet
- personal referrals
- Middle Paragraph- This paragraph should give a summary of the background and critical skills (hard skills) that make the person who is applying for the person, be adequately qualified for the position.
- Second Middle Paragraph- This paragraph can be used to demonstrate persuasive skills or soft skills.
- Contact Information and Closing- At the end of the letter one must talk about their availability for the job, where they can be contacted, and when they are going to contact the hiring person for an appointment to discuss the application. If the person has no contact name then the candidate may simply want to indicate their anticipation for a response in this part of the letter. Thanking the person to whom one is cover letter writing for his/her time and consideration of the application is also important.
Other considerations that must be kept in mind while drafting a cover letter include the following:
- Paper and Printing- One must use white or ivory (20-25 lb.), 8 ½ x 11 bond paper printed on one side only, the same paper must be used for resumes, cover letters, and envelopes if possible. One must make sure that there is no shadowing or dirty marks from the printer on the papers.
- Error Prevention- One must follow instructions in employment ads or recruitment directions, proofread and look for spelling and formatting errors. make sure that the recipient's name, company name, and title are correctly spelled in the letter and on the envelope, have another person proofread the letter and resume, be sure there are no errors of fact, sign in blue or black ink, keep a copy of the cover letter and resume for your records, and follow up with a phone call, about five days after the expected delivery.
- Layout and Design- One must follow the design of a standard cover letter format, keep the cover letter to one page, set margins at 1 ½”, and use a simple, easy-to-read font style, 10-14 points. (Times, Courier, or Helvetica), and use boldface, italics, all-caps, and underlining, but don't overdo it.
- Style- One must organize context in a reasonable and logical order, use correct grammar, keep sentences short, keep paragraphs short, use short words and simple language, ensure that every word counts, and punctuate using dashes, commas, and periods.
- Content- While writing a cover letter, the candidate must focus on the employer's need for a worker, rather than their own need for a job, tell how their own skills and personal qualities match the employer's needs, focus on what they can do for the employer and how they can contribute to the organization, display that they have researched the company double check those facts, and be specific by avoiding general statements.
- Planning and Tone- The candidate must tailor each cover letter to one specific position, use industry jargon specific to your career field, identify the employer's keywords and use them, make all statements positive and check the tone by asking themself if each sentence leaves a positive impression, show originality but not cuteness, and sound confident and determined instead of sounding desperate.