Now is the time of year to be writing a lot of cover letters. Summer jobs, internships and long-term positions require this document. Despite this, I have found that not enough time is spent at college preparing students on how to write necessary professional documents, like cover letters, well.
So, I have done some research and organized the information to give some tips on how to write a good cover letter. This is simply a variation of a lot of what I have seen and much of it paraphrases information from the links that I have provided below. The largest point to remember is that the goal of this document is to get an interview or get a job and how to do best depends on who you are writing to.
- What is my objective with this cover letter?
- Who am I writing to?
- What are the objectives and needs of my audience?
- What specific benefits can I offer to my audience?
- How can I best express those benefits?
- What areas of my resume do I want to highlight?
- How can I use the cover letter to highlight my resume?
- Be succinct: limit the letter to a single page
- Single-space your cover letter and leave a space between paragraphs
- Tailor the letter to the specific job/company
- Be clear, use active voice, use professional language
- Contact Information
Yours: Provide your contact information at the top of the page. Keep visual continuity with your resume and use the same font for both. Your contact information should include your name, address, phone number and email address.
Theirs: Provide the company name and NEVER write “to whom it may concern.” Try to be as specific as possible; names are the best. If you cannot find out the gender of the person the letter is addressed to, avoid Mr. or Mrs. and write out the full name instead. If all else fails, use “Dear Hiring Professional:”
- PARAGRAPH 1: Establish Intentions and Interests
Start by identifying why you are writing. This includes what position you are applying for (and where), how you heard about it (or who recommended it), and any other pertinent information. Next, let the company know why you are interested in them in particular by identifying aspects of the company that you are drawn to and why. (EX: I am interested in your company’s mission to create clean energy because that falls in line with my personal views and goals)
- PARAGRAPH 2: Show Your Skills
This is the section where you use an example from professional or relating work you’ve done that showcase skills or qualifications that would be beneficial to the company. Identify some needs/requirements you notice the company has for its employees and use the example as an opportunity to show your skills. You want to explain why those skills would benefit the company.
In this section, the most important thing is to “show” not “tell” your skills. This means letting the example or information show that you have leadership or communication or team-building skills rather than telling the reader directly that you have leadership skills (For example “I have a PhD in __________” is more persuasive than “I am smart”). The former approach is more substantial, provable and quantifiable. Provide any statistics relating to your example (EX: I oversaw 20 people; I created 300 logos).
- PARAGRAPH 3: Show More Skills
Balance your body paragraphs with soft skills and vital qualifications. The first body paragraph can be an opportunity to show qualities/examples of work that fall in line with what the company wants. The second paragraph could be an example to highlight things like leadership skills, conflict-management skills, etc. Follow a similar pattern to the first body paragraph for continuity.
- PARAGRAPH 4: Say Thank You, Rename Goals, Follow Up
In this paragraph, show enthusiasm for the position by telling them that you want this specific position, restating why you would be a good match for the company and being clear about the plan of action you will take. Here are some phrases you could use when expressing your interest in the position:
- “I am convinced that I want to work for you company as ______”
- “I will do what it takes to be a part of your company as ________”
Let them know if you have attached anything to the cover letter (EX: audition, portfolio, writing sample, Curriculum Vitae, etc.). Then thank them for their time/consideration.
Lastly, establish a call to action, whether that is telling the company you will contact them or that you expect to hear back from them. Include a time frame. Be sure you will do what you say you will do. Provide your contact at the bottom even if you have it at the top; this document is about accessibility, clarity and persuasion. Some examples include:
- “I will contact you within the next week”
- “I look forward to hearing back from you within the next few weeks; my contact information is below”
- “I would like to further discuss with you the position of ________ in person; I will contact you by next week if I do not hear back”
- Look at several examples
- Have multiple people look over the cover letter
- Research the company beforehand
Here are some helpful links/ references that this guide was built on: