Hearing the words “cover letter” may cause you to break out in a cold sweat because, let’s face it, résumés and the concept of applying for a job or an internship are scary. It is nerve-wracking to think that in just a few pieces of paper, you are meant to use your skills and past work experience to show an employer how you would benefit their company. No need to fret! A cover letter is not as complicated as it may seem. It is more informal, allows you to show some of your personality to a potential employer, and serves as an introduction to your résumé. A cover letter is to a résumé as an appetizer is to a main course; if the appetizer is pleasing enough, it will leave the customer even more excited for the meal to come. Similarly, if your cover letter is intriguing, it will spark an employer’s interest in knowing more about you. Anytime you mail, fax, or email a résumé, a cover letter should be sent with it, and employers are more likely to review a résumé with a cover letter than without it. Here are some tips on how you can organize your cover letter:
Let’s Get Technical: Format
The cover letter should be no longer than one page, based on a standard-size paper, and it should not be longer than four paragraphs. The margins should measure ½ to ¾ of an inch on all sides, and a professional font should be used such as Times New Roman or Arial in size 10- or 12-point font.
Organizing Your Content
- Address the Individual
The beginning of a cover letter is similar to the beginning of a regular letter, meaning the individual you are writing to should be greeted and addressed by name and title. For example, you could start with “Dear Mr. Person-in-Charge” or “Dear Ms. Company Director.” If there is not a name to refer to, address the letter to HR, Personnel Director, or the head of the department where you are applying. It would definitely help you in the long-run to put forth the effort to find out who exactly you are addressing.
- Show Off Your Skills
Remember the skills and work experience we were talking about earlier? Here is where you include them. Your main goal is to show how they will contribute to the company’s success. Relevancy is key, so make sure to review the job requirements to connect your expertise with the position for which you are applying.
Paragraph 1: What skills do you have to offer?
This paragraph should give a brief overview of your skills or work experience and affirm that they will benefit the company. Mention the company by name, and if the letter is in response to an advertisement, mention when and where the advertisement was seen.
Paragraphs 2 and 3: How exactly will the skills benefit the company?
These two paragraphs should provide an explanation of your previously stated skills. You should investigate the values and mission statement of the company and match your skills and achievements to them in order to accentuate your usefulness to the employer. You can also use this paragraph to emphasize significant parts of your résumé or add relevant strengths or accomplishments that were not included in it. For example, you can describe a specific situation and how your efforts contributed to a positive outcome.
This is where you tie it all together. Your last paragraph should invite the employer to follow up on your cover letter and résumé. It should be brief and show your optimistic ambition by expressing a desire for an interview. Some statements you can use are “Hope to hear from you soon.” or “Thank you for your time.” You can even take a direct approach and ask, “When can we arrange an interview?” Make sure to repeat your contact information (phone and email) so your potential employer can reach out to you.
You are almost finished! In order to make sure your cover letter is pristine and ready to go, review the format. Your cover letter should follow business letter etiquette:
- Return address and phone number are located in the top right or left corner.
- The date should be placed underneath the address.
- The employer’s full address should be included, flush left margin.
- It is unnecessary to indent paragraphs, but double space in between them for clarity.
- You should include a salutation, followed by a written signature and your full name typed beneath it. If you are emailing it, you can type your name and make it look like a signature by using a cursive font.
- If the cover letter is sent with a résumé, type “Enclosure” or “Encl.”
You have reached the finish line! Developing a cover letter may seem tedious, but taking the time to organize and sort out your content will enhance its quality. Your cover letter is your first introduction to a potential employer and is a complement to your résumé, so you want to provide a professional impression. This means ensuring you are being intentional and making the effort to learn about the company, the position you are applying for, and the person you are addressing. Check for correct grammar and use complete sentences in order to reflect professionalism. Throughout your cover letter, keep brevity in mind. Though elaboration is important, a cover letter should mainly showcase your personality before the employer looks at your résumé. Being concise also helps keep the cover letter within one page. Most importantly, be yourself. You are trying to show your own unique characteristics and capabilities, so you want your cover letter to reflect that. Happy applying!