So you’re ready to write your cover letter. You stare at the page for a while, wondering what to write. It has to be different than the information in your resume, but what can you say that’s different but still relevant? After about ten minutes, you decide to skip the cover letter entirely and just send your resume.
If you’ve ever experienced that before, you’re certainly not alone. You also may have sent a cover letter that was just a quick recap of your resume; while a cover letter like that might get a response, it doesn’t necessarily separate you from other applicants in a memorable way.
When writing a cover letter, it doesn’t have to be long; in fact, it can very easily fit on half a page or less. Here are the four parts of a good cover letter, with an outline of what to include in each.
- A greeting (use the person’s name if you know it)
- State the position for which you are applying.
- How you learned about the position (The company will want to know this, since it tells them what parts of their recruiting campaigns are bringing in the most qualified candidates).
- Always mention that you’re interested in learning more about the position because it sounds fun, challenging, interesting, exciting, like a good fit for your skills, etc. This leads into why you are applying.
Why You Are Applying
- Tell them what caught your attention about the open position. (Be specific and find a better reason than “The ad said you pay $X per year and I would really to make that much.”)
- Talk about how the position fits your skill set and/or your interests. (Have you worked in that industry before? Do you have relevant experience? Are you a recent graduate or looking for a new job and always dreamed of working in that industry or for that company?). This allows you to transition into what you find exciting about the opportunity or your request for an interview.
What You Find Exciting About the Opportunity (Optional)
- Talk about what got you excited when reading more about the company. (Here is your chance to move outside the boundaries of your resume and talk about you in relation to the company or position – how are you a match? What excites you about this opportunity that should excite the company about you? Keep it concise.)
- Mention specifics that impress you. (Little things that the company makes a point to highlight as benefits to working there – they wouldn’t mention them if they didn’t feel they were important. These could be things like paying for employees’ parking permits, or an employee wellness program, etc). This brings you to your request for an interview.
Request for an Interview
- State that you want to speak with them further regarding your qualifications and the specifics of the position.
- State the best way and time to contact you.
- “Have a great day – I look forward to speaking with you soon.” (You can use any variation of this statement – be assumptive that they will contact you)
In closing, make sure that you are being specific with your intentions and with the expectations that you set. If you say you will do something, be sure you do it. Lastly, remember to make it your own – let your individuality seep into what you write so that it becomes a reflection of who you are. If you are not confident in your writing ability, just keep it short and to the point.
A well-written cover letter will not land you a job by itself, but will help you get your foot in the door. Your cover letter and resume will almost always be the first impression that a prospective employer has of you, so make sure you do what you can to ensure that first impression is a good one.