How to Write a Cover Letter

how to write a cover letterSo you finished editing your resume and feel prepared to go out and apply for jobs. Now you are faced with the task of writing a cover letter, as all job seekers are expected to submit one along with their resume. But how do you write one?

 

Often people are more intimidated at the thought of writing a cover letter than resume, since there is no strict format to follow. Luckily, we now live in the age of the Internet so you can simply follow this guide and write the perfect cover letter easily. You’ll find that it’s actually much more simple than you may think. With a polished resume and cover letter ready, you will be sure to quickly get hired for the job you deserve.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a one page document that you submit along with your resume. It is your opportunity to introduce yourself, briefly summarize your professional history and explain your personal interest in the position.

Keep in mind that this is a supplement to your resume, not a replacement, so it shouldn’t just have the same content as your resume in a different format. The perfect cover letter will show potential employers that you are professional, qualified and a great fit for the role. 

What to include in your cover letter

Similarly to a resume, a cover letter should be kept short and sweet. Around 300 words is the perfect length. HR managers sift through large numbers of letters every day so if you have too much text, or if you make it too dry and boring, they may simply skip over it. The goal here is to attract attention and concisely explain why you are the perfect fit for this job. Here is the commonly used structure of cover letters:

  • Heading 
  • Greeting
  • Introduction
  • Why you are a good fit for this job
  • Why this company is a good fit for you
  • Closing paragraph
  • Sign-off

1. Heading

Let’s make it easier by starting with the simplest part: the heading. It’s a formality left from times when cover letters were mailed in paper form, so it is formatted in a traditional letter style where you write who the letter is from and who it is addressed to. 

Here is what to include:

  • Your name
  • Phone number
  • Email address 
  • Name of the hiring manager/their professional title
  • Name of the company you’re applying to

2. Greeting

Ideally, you should know who you are emailing. Avoid using “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” as this is considered quite bland and outdated. Instead, do some research on the company to find the right person to address it to. This will also show the hiring manager that you put in this extra effort. 

Simply use Dear _, or Dear Mr/Ms _ – and be sure to use Ms instead of Miss/Mrs if you are addressing a woman. If the company is a bit more old-fashioned then use the last name, if more modern and casual, just the first name is good. 

A good way to measure the appropriate tone for the greeting and the rest of the letter is by looking at the job ad itself. What kind of language do they use? Does it seem strict and traditional or more casual? Adjust your own tone accordingly. 

3. Introduction

This is an important part as here is where you will hook the hiring manager in and keep them reading. If you make the first part of the letter boring, you will just blend into the crowd and may even get ignored. Instead, make it more engaging and personal. Show passion and desire to work for this company. This is why you should tailor each cover letter you send out to the specific job you’re applying for and avoid using a generic letter.

Introduce yourself and you can mention how you heard about the job and that you’re excited to apply. Then express how you feel that you are the right person for the job and why – here is where you add a very brief summary of your previous relevant experience. 

Here’s a very basic template to give you an idea of the structure:

Introduction

Remember to personalize it and also keep in mind that this letter is an opportunity to show off your written communication skills. If the company you are applying to is creatively driven and innovative, you can even embellish it with your own personal creative writing style to make it stand out.  

4. Why you’re the right person for this job

Before writing this section, take a look at the job description and requirements of the position you’re applying for. Then imagine you are being asked “Why are you the perfect fit for the job?” Brainstorm some ideas. What are your strengths and how would they work for this job? Think about your training, experience or maybe that you also have the right personality.

Make sure to highlight your achievements and key skills that demonstrate that you would perform well in the position. If the company is looking for an “innovative designer” or “someone to lead a new exciting project” you need to show that you are the right person for this. 

You can look up cover letter examples for your specific field to get a better idea of what others write in this section. 

5. Why this job/company is a good fit for you

This is the section where you can write about your career goals, expand on a specific anecdote or explain why you want to work for this specific company. 

Think about how this position fits in with your goals and why you’re motivated to work there. You can write about a lifelong passion you have for the field, personal values that align with this work or some more specific career goals that this position would help you accomplish. 

Do some research about the company. Most likely you can find all the information you need on the company website. What is the company’s product or service? Have you used it? You can mention how much you liked it and how you would love to be a part of creating this product/service for others.

It’s important that you show that not only you are a good fit for the job, but also for the company. What is the culture like? What are the company’s core values? Are they proud of being eco-friendly or have other values that align with your own? Mention this and anything else that makes you feel like you and this position are a perfect match. Don’t make it about incentives or money, as that will make it seem like that’s all you care about.

6. Conclusion and sign off

This is a short paragraph where you reiterate your interest in the position and indicate your desire to meet for an interview. Don’t forget to thank the recipient for reading your letter. Then, remind them how to reach you and if there are any times when you are unavailable for contact. 

For the sign off, feel free to use any professional sign offs that are commonly used, such as:

  • Kind regards
  • Best regards
  • Sincerely
  • Thank you
  • All the best

Template example:

Conclusion

Finishing up

Before sending out your application, make sure you thoroughly review and edit your letter. After you finish writing it, give yourself a day before editing so you look at it with fresh eyes. If possible, ask a friend to read it over and give you feedback, as a different person may catch awkward wording or small errors that you would not notice.

Remember, it should only be 200-400 words long, which means you should remove anything unnecessary or repetitive. Use clear, concise language to make the letter easy to read. Avoid using convoluted vocabulary or grammar, as this may cause you to give off the impression of being pretentious. 

After you’re finished with editing, you’re all set to send off your job application! Make sure you prepare for the next step: interviews. You can do some research about common interview questions to prepare your answers. Remember to also prepare questions to ask the interviewer. 

So now you know how to write a cover letter. Good luck in your job hunt! 

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