How to Write a Cover Letter

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A cover letter is one of the most important parts of your job application. It accompanies the other documents that you submit when applying for a job (usually a resume, and in some cases an application). Cover letters are not always requested by an employer in a job posting, but you should make an effort to compose a strong and unique cover letter to send along with your resume for every job that you apply for.

In most cases, an employer will read your cover letter before looking at your resume, so it’s the first chance that you have to make a positive, lasting impression and demonstrate your best qualities for the position. It also gives the employer a chance to hear your “voice” and know you better. Resumes are important because they provide the “data,” but the cover letter often gives employers an even better sense of who you are and why you would be a good fit for the job.

The Opening

In the opening of your cover letter, introduce yourself and state your reasons for contacting the employer. Address the person who will be reading your letter by name, rather than simply stating “To whom it may concern.” If you don’t know who will be reading the letter, do a bit of research or contact the company to try and get a name, and make sure that you spell the name correctly!

The Body

In the body of the letter, include the most relevant information that explains why and how you are qualified for the position. Make sure that you are not simply summarizing all of the information already found on your resume. The cover letter gives you the opportunity to draw attention to some of the most notable parts of your resume so that they won’t go overlooked and also to explain any glaring holes or inconsistencies that may be misinterpreted.

The Closing

At the closing of the letter, state your plans for following up, and then make sure to follow through the way you say you will. Use a proper business salutation like “Sincerely” or “Cordially,” and sign your name below in ink. Underneath your signature, your name should still appear in the type font. If you are sending an electronic cover letter, you may include an e-signature if you have one, and if not, simply type your name.

Here are a few additional tips that should help you make your cover letter even stronger:

  • Don’t simply express your interest, but demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the position. Illustrate with examples how your own education, training, or experience is relevant.

  • Although creating a form cover letter seems convenient, it usually does you no favors in the end. Form letters are usually somewhat vague (and often bland), which won’t help you stand out. Make sure that each cover letter that you write is specifically oriented towards the job that it is being submitted for. It’s extra time and effort, but it pays off.

  • Always go after a positive, professional tone in your cover letter, and avoid negative language. Don’t bash your former employer or complain- use your words to highlight your strengths so that the employer will be excited about the prospect of meeting with you.

  • Personalize your letter, but don’t be overly casual in your language. Keep things business professional, and resist the urge to be cheeky or cute. This will make your letter stand out, but in all the wrong ways.

  • Never use the information in your cover letter to try to threaten or guilt the employer into agreeing to interview or hire you. Even if you've had a hard year trying to get a job, focus on the positive things you may have gained, rather than seeking pity.

  • Always use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A cover letter is not the place to use chat speak, emoticons, or slang and jargon. Follow a standard business letter format, and if possible, have someone trustworthy review your letter and give you their input before you submit it.

  • Make sure that your font is legible! Use your enthusiasm and knowledge to make yourself stand out, not a cursive script or thick, blocky letters.

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