The Art of the Cover Letter: How to Stand Out and Get The Job
By Tiffany Chang
Many job applications require at least two things: A resume and cover letter. With these documents, employers can get an initial look into what your background is. This is why it’s important that people know how to best highlight their skills, talents, previous experiences, and accomplishments.
Cover letters in particular can be tricky. They need to not only explain the above, but also tailor towards the job you’re applying for as well as the organization’s mission.
Here’s some advice on how to craft a cover letter that will create a great first impression:
Design and Layout
All cover letters should be no more than one page in length and have the same headings as their corresponding resumes, complete with your contact information.
The following is listed vertically: the hirer’s role, company name, and it’s physical address.
Then, subject lines should read “Re:” and the title of the position.
A respectful salutation would be, “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Last Name],”. If it’s unclear who you’re addressing, another formal way to greet the person is: “To whom it may concern,”.
Think of cover letters as short essays. Shorter essays typically have an introduction, two body paragraphs, and a conclusion. In this case, of course, the essay is about yourself.
Note that everything (other than your header) must be aligned left and there is a space between each section and paragraph.
Since cover letters are not very long, you need to write concisely as well as strategically, while also providing the right amount of information.
Introductions should draw in the reader. Begin specifying that you’re contacting them because the job interests you. Make a general statement on why you’d be a good fit in two to three sentences. What you could include is one or two personal qualities and, if any, relevant experiences with a specific type of work. For instance, if you’ve worked in fast-food and are applying for a retail job, you can mention your enthusiasm and customer-service experience.
The first body paragraph explores certain areas in more detail. Here, you can discuss tasks you’ve done from prior jobs or volunteering positions and give the hirer a better understanding of what you can do. With fast-food, one may describe being responsible for handling transactions while ensuring customers receive their orders in a timely manner.
Second body paragraphs briefly summarize other experiences you’ve had. Reference the roles listed on your resume. Emphasize how they gave you opportunities to apply yourself and what you ultimately gained. For example, a student might cite gaining leadership skills after being given multiple responsibilities during their time as an executive of a school club.
When concluding a cover letter, the last remarks reinforce the reasons why you should be considered for an interview. Directly declare that you think you’re a qualified candidate because “x,” “y,” and “z.” Last but not least, thank the person for their time and attention.
To have a complimentary close for your letter, say “Sincerely,” followed by your full name typed underneath. At the very bottom, add your signature. If you’re using Microsoft Word, an easy way to include your signature in the Word document is to get a piece of paper, sign it, take a picture of the signature, and send it to yourself via e-mail. You can then save it onto your computer and insert the signature as a photo.
Proofread your work to ensure there are no typos or grammar errors. Having an error-free cover letter indicates that you’re a careful writer and pay close attention to detail.
Cover letters should nicely compliment their corresponding resumes. It is essential for you to clearly communicate on paper what you want your potential employer to know about you. If you can determine which experiences and attributes show that you’re qualified and how to shed light on them, you’ve successfully written an effective cover letter.
Chen, James. “Mission Statement.” https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/missionstatement.asp
HigherEdJobs. “The Do’s of Writing a Spectacular Cover Letter.” https://www.higheredjobs.com/career/CoverLetterDos.cfm
Nordquist, Richard. “The Complimentary Close in a Letter or Email.” https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-complimentary-close-p2-4008435