Read our ultimate guide to writing a cover letter to learn how to craft a letter that impresses potential employers and makes you stand out among a crowd of other candidates.
What is a cover letter?
As the name implies, a cover letter is simply a letter of introduction that precedes your resume. It tells the hiring manager a little about you before they check out your resume or look into your references. This can be a great opportunity to build a personal connection and show who you truly are.
Typical components of a cover letter include:
- A header that contains your contact information
- A greeting that directly addresses the letter reader
- A brief introduction of who you are and what your career goals are
- Examples of why you are interested in that specific position
- Descriptions of skills you have that would make you a good candidate for the facility
- Your handwritten or typed signature
A cover letter is not quite the same thing as an email introduction. It is usually a little longer and more formal than an email. At the same time, cover letters tend to be more personal. Instead of just bluntly stating who you are and what job you want, a cover letter helps the hiring manager get a glimpse into your personality.
Researching a cover letter
Review professional cover letter examples for your career to get an idea of what your letter should look like. Never copy sentences and phrases from these letters exactly since this can make you seem bland and unmemorable. Instead, use these samples as inspiration for the type of general outline and tone you should use.
Cover letter templates are not quite as strict as resume templates. The majority of the letter will just follow a basic letter template. However, you may want to take a look at templates just to get ideas for how you will structure the heading of your letter. You can pick one that emphasizes your name and achievements or find a template that puts focus on how to contact you.
Before you write the letter, read the job posting. Pay attention to all essential requirements, and show how you satisfy these criteria. In addition to looking at the original job posting, it is a good idea to check out postings for similar jobs on SimplyHired. Take note of the language frequently used in postings to identify buzz words that describe what the typical employer wants. Employ these phrases in your cover letter to subtly show you can understand and anticipate the business's needs.
Writing your cover letter
The first step in ## Writing a cover letter is understanding proper formatting. Sticking to the basic letter writing format provides you with an easy outline and makes sure you do not forget anything important. Feel free to add more parts to your cover letter if you desire, but ensure it includes these essential features.
The header – This is the part of the letter with all your essential information. Write your name, address, phone number and email, and put the date of the letter above or below the section with contact information. If desired, you can include any job title or career designation you have.
Your greeting – The greeting will address who you are trying to contact. Write the name of the business, the business's phone number and email and the name of the hiring manager if you have it. After writing the recipient's information, greet them politely. A safe greeting is always "Dear" followed by their honorific and the person's last name, but if you do not have a specific name, you can just write "Dear Hiring Manager."
The body – Cover letter bodies are usually three to four paragraphs in length. The first paragraph should introduce you and explain why you want the job. Then, you can move on to describing relevant education, work experience and life experience that makes you a good choice for the job.
The closing – Sign off with a professional and polite closing like "Respectfully yours" or "Sincerely" followed by your name. It can be a nice touch to leave space on the letter to hand sign your name if it is a hard copy.
When formatting, stick to a professional font in a 10- or 12-point size. Put a full line of space between each section of the letter and each paragraph of the body to avoid making it look like a giant block of text. If desired, you can align the header to the center or right side of the page to make it stand out.
A good cover letter should read almost like a story. You want the whole thing to smoothly flow from one concept to the next, and every point should emphasize the main theme of you being a desirable candidate for the job. There are a few essential things to think about when telling your story.
Match your skills to the ones in the job ad – A cover letter is not meant to be a list of every skill you have. Instead, you should highlight two to three skills you have that could be used to fulfill the duties that the job posting described.
Focus on your achievements – Your cover letter is a good time to brag about yourself a little. Take the time to mention any notable achievements that could improve your ability to perform the job. This can include educational awards, changes you implemented in the workplace or career awards.
Why do you want to work at the company? – Take the time to show that you have done a little research because companies look more favorably on unique letters tailored specifically for their business. The cover letter should show that you understand the company's goals and want to help achieve these goals because of your own personal interests and objectives.
The whole point of a cover letter is to make you stand out. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you are memorable.
Pick your voice – Having a clear, defined voice in your cover letter helps the hiring manager remember you due to some sort of definitive trait. Think about the one thing that defines your personality and career achievements, and craft each sentence carefully to convey that concept.
Avoid cliches – A big danger of cover letters is cliches. People tend to feel unsure of their cover letter writing abilities, so they fall back on cliche concepts like "My greatest skill is my attention to detail." Try to use original concepts and phrasing to make sure you are memorable.
You need to proofread because mistakes can make you look unintelligent or lazy. Start by reading over the letter for spelling mistakes and common grammatical issues. Then, read it out loud to see if it flows smoothly. Finally, read the content again to make sure you have not included unnecessary details.
Printing and saving
Make sure you save your resume in a file style that will retain your format even if it is opened with another program. It is a good idea to save in multiple formats in case one gets corrupted.
If you plan to print a hard copy, use quality paper. Stick to a basic white or cream color in standard letter size to keep a professional look. For some extra oomph, purchase resume paper, which is a thicker weight and has a bit more texture than standard copy paper.
Common mistakes and tips on avoiding
To make sure your cover letter is as effective as possible, check to see if it contains any of these mistakes.
Irrelevant experience – Never include experience that seems irrelevant. If you have no work experience in that career, explain how your past jobs taught you skills like customer service or office filing that could come in handy in the new job.
Disorganized – A disorganized cover letter can make you look scatterbrained. Try to arrange your talking points into distinct paragraphs to stay on track.
Grammatical errors and typos – This major issue can be avoided by taking the time to proofread. Consider asking a friend to proofread it too.
Not being specific enough – Being vague can prevent you from being memorable. Use precise examples and details about yourself to avoid this problem.
Not being personal enough – This is a big mistake because it wastes your chance to build a personal connection with the hiring manager. Remember to include personal touches like writing about why you entered your career or your favorite thing about the company you're applying to.