Most schools will at least teach students how to write a basic cover letter and with the ever growing job market it’s a skill that everyone should brush up on. The cover letter is the first glimpse at you that any employer will ever have (unless you have an ‘in’ with them) and it is the hook that gets them to look deeper. From the cover letter employers will go to the resume. Lots of people think their resume should be enough to impress an employer, but by going to extra step with a cover letter you can give them a look at you as a person.
And that’s the pinch. You’re selling yourself in a way with a cover letter and there are so many people who just can’t fathom what their selling points are. A cover letter has to be personalized to the employer you’re trying to impress. This means you need to personalize what skills you want to really push. As both an author and freelance writer I’ve written more than my share of cover letters and I really hated each and every one of them.
So what goes into a cover letter?
First and foremost you need to address it properly. You contact information should be found at the top of the cover letter and followed by the name and contact information of the company you’re sending the cover letter too. This is for handing in or mailing cover letters. If you’re emailing a cover letter this can be somewhat ignored or followed to the letter.
In the first paragraph of your cover letter you should introduce yourself and how you heard about the opening you’re applying for. Give them a feel for who you are and why you were drawn to this job. This is the hook that leads them to the next part: You experience.
The second paragraph should highlight in more detail your experience that qualifies you for the job opening. Here’s where some detailing comes in. If you’re applying for a tech position don’t include time you spent working at an animal shelter. Focus in on what makes you the best fit for the job. This part may be expanded to a third paragraph if you have a lot of experience you need to share.
In conclusion summarize everything that makes you the person they want to hire in just a few sentences. Add why the job excites you or why you’re going for this job. Make sure to reword it and add a little bit of knowledge. It’s nice to let the employer know you know something about them and their company.
Then end it with a sincerely (hopeful employee) and you’re set.
That sounds really easy, but for most of us it’s nerve wracking and nail biting to go through. After writing it you then have to send it and hope they like you more than any of the others applying for the job. So here’s some advice.
Take a deep breath and write your cover letter. Do a draft first if you’re not confident and then go back and read through it once. If you have a friend or family member that you trust to tell you the truth see if they’re read over it once for you. Then sit down and tweak it just once. Finally, take another deep breath and send it.
Best of luck!