Most job applications include two documents: the resume and the cover letter. Applicants who know how to write a cover letter are much more likely to land the position they are interested in. Cover letters are a personal introduction. They are often used to express interest in the company or showcase specific talents and qualifications. Although most cover letters follow the same general format, they offer significantly more freedom than the traditional resume. A cover letter can contain any information that may be relevant to the application.
Crafting a cover letter is a skill that requires practice. Don't be afraid to write the same cover letter multiple times before submitting it. Cover letters represent the first communication with a potential employer; write them with care and attention to detail.
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a document submitted alongside a resume. This letter is a personal but formal communication with the company. Cover letters spark interest in the applicant, explain information in the resume, and encourage the manager to continue the interview process.
Many job listings request a cover letter; submitting it shows professional courtesy and attention to detail. Cover letters can also be used to inquire about jobs that have not yet been posted. Particular care should be taken with inquiry letters, as the hiring manager may save them for the next round of applications.
Hiring managers usually read cover letters before they even open the attached resume. The best cover letter will catch and maintain their interest. Use clear language, professional formatting, and relevant information to craft a cover letter that will impress.
What Needs to Be Included in a Cover Letter
Most cover letters have three main sections: an introduction, a development, and a conclusion. Use a cover letter template to help format these sections.
- Introduction - The introduction should be interesting and memorable. This is a good chance to catch the hiring manager's attention, so don't use dry or repetitive content. Give them a reason to remember this specific application.
- Development - The development explains why the applicant is the best possible fit for the position. Talk about relevant experiences and show off company research. Be creative but professional. Explain parts of the resume that may be interesting or confusing.
- Conclusion - The conclusion should be polite and enthusiastic. Reiterate interest in the company and suggest that they reach out to continue the conversation. Consider following up a few days after the letter is sent.
Don't forget to include contact information at the top or bottom of the letter. Many hiring managers receive great cover letters with no way to contact the applicant and end up choosing someone else for the position. Other details to include might be the hiring manager's name, an appropriate salutation, and a handwritten signature.
Tips for Writing a Great Cover Letter
There are several things you can do to make sure that your cover letter stands apart from those handed in by other people. This includes:
- Write a new cover letter for every application. Use details that are relevant to the specific company and position
- Don't repeat the resume. The hiring manager already has this information, so instead just mention the key points that are relevant to the position.
- Read through cover letter examples. Get a feel for the professional tone and the way most letters are structured.
- Use the job posting as a guide. Most companies mention the skills and qualifications they are interested in; tailor the cover letter to address these points.
- Don't apologize for negatives. Instead, mention beneficial skills, and let the hiring manager decide if the lacking qualification is actually necessary.
- Pay attention to the medium the letter will be delivered in. If the cover letter is digital, use an accessible document format. If the letter will be printed, use high-quality paper.
- Have someone else proofread the letter. Small errors are easy to miss and can send an application to the bottom of the pile.