Cover Letter 101

Last night I spent three hours supporting a friend with writing up a cover letter. I sent her some tips prior to our meeting so that she could begin working on it. They are listed below…enjoy!

A cover letter is a great tool for introducing yourself to the employer. A resume tells a story, but does not show personality very well. In the cover letter, you can match your qualifications to that of job and integrate your experience and values with the mission of the company. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Use a header at the top that matches your resume header exactly.
  • Write the name and title of the person you are writing to and address of the company.
    • Always address your cover letter to a specific person in the organization. You may need to call them and ask who that would be (ask them how to spell the person’s name!).
    • Salutation should look like this = Dear Ms. Smith: (use Ms./Mr. unless otherwise specified).

Introduction

  1. Thank the reader for reviewing your application.
  2. Tell them where you found the position and why you are interested or excited to apply for it.
  3. At the end of the intro paragraph, name the day that you are available to begin working.

Body: Match your experience to their qualifications

  • Find the qualifications and requirements for the position (this will probably be on the job announcement if you have one). 
  • Give specific examples of places you worked, interned or volunteered in the past that demonstrate you meet the requirements for the job.
  • Make sure that you demonstrate the most important qualifications in the job announcement.
  • You can also include “soft skills” that you know will be important to the job. These may or may not be listed, but good ones to keep in mind are: self-starter, attention to detail, good listener, emotionally intelligent, team player, perceptive, patient, inquisitive. Choose 1-3 that are crucial for the position and incorporate them into your experiences like “Working as a X position, I learned to be extremely perceptive…”

Conclusion, two parts:

  1. The first paragraph concludes your body and summarizes why you are experienced for the position. Answer: Why are you the best person for this position? Or, what is unique about you as a candidate for the position?
  2. In the second paragraph say that you would like an interview (be direct), give a specific time that you will follow-up by telephone (10 days later), and write out your contact information (even though it is at the top of the cover letter).

And…

  • Don’t forget to sign the cover letter!
  • Triple check for spelling errors and sentence clarity. I have never turned in a perfect cover letter. Unfortunately, I always find mistakes later, so triple check!

What other tips do you have? Please comment below!

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