The Basics of Writing a Winning Cover Letter
Besides your resume, another document potential employers almost always require a candidate to submit is a cover letter. A lot of time and effort should go towards writing a cover letter as this seemingly simple document may be the difference between securing the vacant position and having your resume flouted. This primer seeks to provide you with all the information you need to pen an effective cover letter to ensure that your application is not disregarded. But first, let’s clarify what a cover letter is to ensure that we all are on the same page.
What Is the Purpose Of a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a document presented alongside the resume to provide additional info on the skills as well as the experience of the candidate. Familiarize yourself with the purpose of the cover letter before you start the process of writing one.
The cover letter should provide detailed information on why you, as the candidate, are the best fit for the open position. When writing a cover letter, many candidates just restate what their resumes say, which is a mistake. Use the cover letter to market yourself and secure the interview. When applying for a position, always make sure that you attach a cover letter with your resume, even if it is not specifically requested.
What Does A Cover Letter Include?
A cover letter is all about creating a critical first impression; it’s the earliest contract with the new employer. It adds a personal touch to your application by interpreting the factual, data oriented resume. This document should complement, not replicate what the resume says. Focus on the credentials that make you a strong fit for the position.
Structure of Your Cover Letter
As the name suggests, a cover letter is actually just a letter, but one that has the power to get you employed. Here’s the structure of writing a cover letter. If you have ever written any type of letter in your life, some of the details may seem familiar. The structure of a cover letter includes the header, contact information, salutation, introduction, body, closing, and signature.
- Header. The header of a cover letter should start with contact information, both yours and that of the company. Its name, phone number, street address, and email followed by the date.
- Contact information. The applicant’s contact information should be comprised of first and last names, street address, city/state zip, telephone, and email. If its an email, contact information should come at the end.
- Salutation. Start the letter with ‘Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name.’ if you are unsure of the gender of the person you are addressing the letter to, you can write their full names. If that information is not available either, just use the ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ line.
- Introduction. This is the first part of the body of your letter. Here, you want to get the attention of the person reading the letter. Explain how you came across the information about the open position, this is very important if your source is a contact of the employer. Give a brief overview of your skills and experience and how you fit into the position.
- Body. This should about one or two paragraphs. Explain why you are the perfect candidate for the job and why you are interested in the position. Mention some of the requirements in the posting and how you meet them. This should be you explaining some parts of your resume, not restating them.
- Closing. If the reader got this far in your cover letter, your chances of scoring an interview are pretty decent. You can give reasons why you want to work at the company and thank the employer for considering your application.
- Signature. Apply a complimentary close. You can then conclude your letter with a handwritten signature and your full names. In the case of an email, just type your full names followed by the complimentary close and your contact information.
A cover letter is about your qualifications, so don’t get too personal with it. Don’t even mention that you don’t have all the required qualifications even if it’s true. Leave out details about the salary unless you are specifically asked to mention your salary requirements. Don’t forget to proofread your cover letter.