After tailoring and editing your resumé, you may choose to include a cover letter to increase your chances of getting an interview—especially if you know that a recruiter or hiring manager will be screening candidates. But this is the step where many job seekers get stuck. They wonder what to write, how to sound professional, and what they can add that’s not already in their resumé.
To help you get started, we’ll explain the purpose of a cover letter, lay out a general structure to follow, and share some tips.
Writing a Cover Letter | Purpose and Structure
The purpose of writing a cover letter is to express your interest in an organization and to request an interview for an open position.
The Cover Letter Structure
Write your full name, street address, city and state each on their own line and justify this block of text to the right-hand side. Two lines down, you can include the date.
This block of text should be justified to the left-hand side of the page. In it, include the full name of the hiring manager or recruiter, their job title, the company name, and the company address.
Two lines below the Addressee, write the salutation (usually, “Dear Mr./Ms. [full name],”). If you feel the company is more formal, you can use a colon instead of a comma following the salutation.
Use this first paragraph to state your interest in working for the company. Briefly explain how you learned of the open role.
In this second paragraph, explain why you are the best candidate for the position by tying your qualifications and achievements to terms you read in the job ad. Keep in mind that your cover letter introduces your resumé, which is all about you, so you may want to strike a balance.
Tip: Consider writing a sentence that shows you’ve researched the company, that you understand how you’d fit into the organization, and that you already have plans for how you’d make a positive impact. When you use accomplishment statements, link them to the employer’s needs to detail how you will contribute.
Conclude this third paragraph in a productive way. Rather than simply stating that you hope to hear from them, share when and how you plan to follow up toward scheduling an interview. This strategy not only shows initiative and gives you a chance to prove that you follow through on your word, but it also puts the ball in your court to keep things moving.
Two lines below your concluding paragraph, type “Sincerely,” then type out your full name four lines under that. Below your name, type “Enc: resumé.” Print your cover letter and sign your name in black ink above the typed version of your name.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter
- Before writing, consider the role and why the hiring manager should choose to hire you for the position. Write down what comes to mind, so you can refer to it as your write your cover letter.
- In general, keep your letter brief. Get your points across with concise sentences.
- If you are responding to a job ad that requests salary requirements, share an expected salary range instead of a specific number. You can research appropriate ranges on Glassdoor.com and Salary.com. Be prepared to discuss this during your interview.
- Resist the tendency to restate your resumé. Instead emphasize 2-3 of the strongest reasons that you’re a great fit for the role.
- Draw parallels between your prospective employer and your past work.
- Demonstrate industry knowledge.
- Use short sentences and avoid slang.
- Use action verbs like “developed,” “earned,” and “established.
- If you cannot find the name of the hiring manager, use “selection committee” or “hiring manager” as the Addressee.
- Use a standard font, ideally the same as your resumé.
- Print copies for friends and family members to edit prior to printing your official copy.
- Print your final copy on the same type of paper as your resumé – on white or ivory paper.
Cover Letter Example
The cover letter is a sales pitch. You can find additional resume tools such as cover letter samples; resume samples and questions/answers from resume experts at the following internet sites:
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