Cover letters. As much as they require more work, cover letters are a great opportunity to cover qualifications we can’t fully explain in our resumes. In addition, they help personalize job applicants to enable them to come across more as real people to potential employers. If you throw together a cover letter in the hopes that nobody will actually read it, you might be missing a chance to land the job. To take advantage of a cover letter’s full potential, follow these steps below. You’ll find advice on formatting, reviewing, and researching cover letters. You will also find links to three free samples, which you can copy and adapt to your own personal cover letter.
Method One of Four:
Write an Email Cover Letter Edit
Include a salutation. There are a number of cover letters to choose from. And, the greeting you choose will depend on how much information you have about the company.
- If you know the name of the hiring manager, your salutation should be something like “Dear [insert name]” followed by either a comma or a colon. Make sure to address the manager formally using their proper title (Mr. Ms. Dr. etc.).
- If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, consider addressing your letter “Dear Hiring Manager,” “Dear Recruiting Team,” or “Dear [insert company name] Team.”
- As a last resort, address the letter “To whom it may concern,” though we recommend avoiding this salutation, as it could come across as a template letter.
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Write the first paragraph of your letter. This is where you will mention the job for which you’re applying and how you found the job listing.
It only needs to be 1 to 2 sentences in length.
Write the body paragraphs of your letter. Most cover letters will only have 1 or 2 body paragraphs. You don’t want to overwhelm the hiring manager or use up a great deal of his or her time. Try to answer the following questions in your body paragraphs:
- Why am I a qualified candidate for this position?
- What work experience do I have that fits the job requirements in the company’s listing?
- Why do I want to work for this company specifically?
Write the final paragraph of your letter. This will be where you wrap up and discuss how you will proceed with the application. Consider including the following:
- Reiterate in one sentence why you feel you’re a perfect fit for the position.
- Discuss what you’ll do next. If you plan on following up with the hiring manager in a week or two, include a specific date. Otherwise, just say that you look forward to interviewing for the position and discussing your qualifications further.
- Provide your contact information. Include your email address and your phone number so the hiring manager can get in touch with you.
- Mention that your resume or references are attached (if applicable).
- Thank the person for their time.
End your cover letter with a respectful closing statement. “Best” or “Sincerely” are both classic options. Also, since you won’t be able to sign your email, finish the letter by typing your full name.
Method Two of Four:
Write a Paper Cover Letter Edit
Add a letterhead at the top of the letter. Your letterhead should include your full name, address, telephone number, and email address. Some guidelines to follow when creating your letterhead:
- Your name should be in bold 14- or 16-point font.
- Your address and other contact information should be in normal 12-point font.
- The font of your letterhead does not need to be Arial or Times New Roman, like the rest of your letter, but it should be professional looking and easy to read. The most important thing to remember is to include up-to-date information so that you make it easy for the employer to contact you.
- You may want to include an extra line under the letterhead to create visual appeal and to separate the letterhead from the rest of the letter.
Write the recipient’s name, address, and the date below the letterhead. It doesn’t matter whether you put the date first or last, or how many blank lines you include between them, as long as it looks professional.
- From here on out, use 12-point Arial or Times New Roman throughout the entire letter, set your margins to one inch, and use single spacing. Be sure your font is black, and if you’re printing your letter out, use standard-sized paper (8 1/2” by 11”).
Address the recipient. Be sure to refer to the recipient by his or her proper title (Mrs. Mr. Dr. etc.). If you’re not sure who the recipient is, write, “To Whom It May Concern:” or “Dear Sir or Madam”; however, it is always best to address a cover letter to a real person to make it look like you’re not sending form letters.
State your purpose in the first paragraph. Tell the employer why you are writing to them in two or three sentences. State the position for which you are applying (or the one you would like to have should it become available).
- You don’t necessarily need to include how you became aware of the position unless it was through a mutual contact or recruiting program—in which case you should make the most of the connection.
- If you are writing a letter of interest (also known as a prospecting or inquiry letter) in which you are asking about positions that might be available, specify why you are interested in working for the employer.
Outline your qualifications in the middle paragraph(s). Make sure to match them to the requirements of the position. If you are writing to inquire about open positions, tell the employer how you can contribute to their bottom line, not what you want to get out of the deal. To do this, use what you have researched about the employer’s background and history.
- Make your qualifications jump out at the reader by researching the company to which you are applying for a job and tailoring your letter accordingly. This will also be useful if you get an interview. Some questions to keep in mind as you write are
- What is the employer’s mission? What do they promote as the one thing that sets them apart from their competitors?
- What kind of customer base does the employer have? Who is their target audience?
- What is the company’s history? Who founded it? How has the business evolved? What are the main highlights of the company’s performance over the past few years?
Include a positive statement or question in the final paragraph that will motivate the employer to contact you. Make this closing paragraph between two to four sentences. Direct the employer to your enclosed resume and make sure you specify that you’re available for an interview. Finish off by thanking the recruiter for their time and consideration, and welcome them to get in touch with you to continue the conversation.
Write an appropriate closing. It’s a good idea to thank the reader for his or her time. After that, write “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” or “Regards,” leave several spaces, and print your name.
Add your signature. If you will be submitting your cover letter digitally, it’s a good idea to scan and add your signature, write it in with a digital writing pad, or make a digital signature stamp with appropriate software.
Make a notation of the enclosures. If you enclose something, such as a resume, with a letter, you should indicate that the letter contains enclosures by making the notation “Enclosure” or “Enclosures” at the bottom of the letter.
Method Three of Four:
Review Your Cover Letter Edit
Spell-check and proofread . If you have a spell-check feature, use it. Some programs, such as Microsoft Word. also include a grammar check that you should use. Proofread your letter yourself. Some things to avoid are
- Common misspellings .
- Writing in the passive voice. Own your accomplishments. Stay away from phrases like “This experience gave me the opportunity to. ” or worse, “these goals were met by me.” You don’t want to sound like everything happened to you or that it was done by some other entity. Make yourself the active subject of every sentence (e.g. “In this role, I developed/reinforced/learned/etc.”). However, this does not imply that every sentence should start with “I. ” so vary your syntax accordingly.
- Colloquial (informal) writing. You want to sound professional and educated. Avoid all forms of slang, unnecessary abbreviations, and texting lingo.
- Incorrect punctuation .
Read your letter aloud to hear how it reads. Do not rely on the spelling and grammar checks to catch mistakes. Consider asking a friend, or even two, to proofread your letter as well. If no one is available to help, another good strategy is to spend some time away from your final draft (a few hours or even a whole day) so that you can return to it with a fresh perspective.
If I have a disability that may affect my work, should I mention it in my cover letter?
Answered by wikiHow Contributor
- Unless the disability would pretty well disqualify you from doing the job well (in which case you probably shouldn’t be applying for the position), you’ll have a better chance of getting an interview if you omit mention of it in the cover letter. In the interview, once you’ve had the chance to showcase your strengths, honestly explaining how it might impact some portions of your job — but be ready with ways you plan to work around your issues, too.
Is it okay to make a cover letter longer than one page?
Answered by wikiHow Contributor
- In general, you should avoid making it that long. It should be short and concise, emphasizing why you would be suitable for the position you’re applying for.
Make sure your cover letter is visually appealing and coordinated with your resume. Use the same personal information block in the heading of your cover letter and your resume. A cohesive resume package is a very attractive selling point. If using paper (i.e. not online), use the same high quality paper for the cover letter as for your resume.
Be concise. Never use two words when one will do. Always strike the word “very” and eliminate the word “that” as much as you can.
Consider name-dropping if you are confident that the person you know at the company you are applying to will vouch for you. Sometimes a bit of inside help does go a long way, so don’t dismiss this option if it is open to you.
Do not overdo the style elements. Choose a font that is simple but elegant. Avoid uncommon decorative fonts unless you are applying for a job where being quirky is of greater value than being businesslike and the people who are doing the hiring are on board with this philosophy.
Tweak your cover letter depending upon your target. If you are applying for specific jobs then make it as relevant as possible. Include the job reference number and address your cover letter directly to the company contact (if you have their name). Alternatively, if you are applying speculatively you can start with the salutation ‘Dear Sirs,’ and finish with ‘Yours faithfully’ rather than ‘Sincerely’
Avoid generic, empty language (“I will bring a depth of experience,” or “I believe my qualifications and experience suit the demands of the position”). Be specific and concrete about what you can bring to the position.
Be careful not to overplay your cover letter’s role in the job application process. Yes, a good cover letter is important and a well-written cover letter should help entice the employer to read your resume. Even so, you should still be aware that your resume/CV is the main player, whereas the cover letter’s role is a supporting one. If you get the balance wrong and place too much emphasis on the cover letter (making it too long and complex), then it could deter the employer from reading your resume.
This is not your autobiography. Keep it well under a page.
If you’re doing a thorough job search, you will get rejected sometimes. If you’re not getting rejected, you’re not putting yourself out there enough. In addition, if you don’t learn to see rejection as a chance to improve your approach, then you’ll have a very difficult time getting a job.
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