Have you been asking yourself “how do I make myself stand out”? This guide to cover letters will assist you in not only creating a cover letter, but also using one appropriately and effectively.
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a professionally written letter that accompanies a resume and/or application. This letter allows you to showcase who you are in a concise and memorable manner.
While your resume is designed and written to catch the eye of a recruiter or applicant tracking system (ATS), your cover letter is designed to attract attention from the direct hiring manager. A resume and cover letter should not be identical or carry the same information.
Step 1: Understand your audience
Knowing who your audience is in this case, means a hiring manager. Write a professional letter, not a friendly email or social media post. Are you writing to a manager of a self run startup company, or a longtime power house company? While both are going to require a professional letter, the information within the letter may varying between the two and the position you are seeking. Ensure you have read the entire job announcement, in detail, as well as your resume and completed research on the company.
Step 2: What to include in your letter
Before you begin to compose the letter itself, you will want to understand the areas that are to be included.
You should include:
The header is the senders name and address as well as the recipient's name and address (if known). Keep your salutation simple; “Dear Hiring Manager” is both direct and appropriate, while “To Whom it May Concern” is outdated. The body of the letter should have 2-3 paragraphs.
The first paragraph generally should state the position you are applying for as well as the location you found the position. If you were referred to the position by another employee, you can include their name and department in this area.
The next paragraph should be your selling pitch. Pick out a few achievements that are not included on your resume and allow yourself to shine. Explain who you are and how you can help the company accomplish their goals.
The final paragraph is going to be where you thank them and the inclusion of a power statement. A power statement is a direct statement meant to make a positive lasting impression; “I look forward to meeting with you to discuss my qualifications and how I can fit into This Company”.
Lastly, don't skimp on the closing! Use something professional like, “Sincerely”, “Best Regards”, or “Respectfully”.
After you write your initial thoughts for your cover letter, I suggest taking a short break from working on it. When you have been looking at the same information for an extended period of time your mistakes can tend to blend in. Once you come back to the letter you will want to work on final touches.
This should include:
Checking for spelling and grammar mistakes
The use of 1 Inch Margins
11 or 12 point Simple Font (Arial, Times New Roman)
Ensuring the letter and thoughts flow properly
When should I use a cover letter?
A cover letter should be included for every position that:
You target your resume to meet
You feel is a dream or ideal position
There is a place for you to upload the letter
Remember that a hiring manager will not see the cover letter unless you make it through that first step, and your applicant packet is passed on to the manager. Ensure that your resume is up to par prior to sitting down to create the accompanying cover letter. A well written cover letter, that showcases who you are could be that extra something your application packet is missing.
If you still need some more help with your cover letter, you can register here for more training to help with your resumé and cover letter.
Written by: Phylicia Vallier