How to Write a Cover Letter

Knowing how to write a cover letter is a vital quality for job seekers. Along with a professional, concise resume, an effective cover letter is the first impression you give to your prospective employer. A cover letter that shows you possess strong communication skills and the ability to write professionally will go a long way to getting that job interview.

A word of advice and warning when writing cover letters: it is essential that you tailor your cover letter to the specific job. This is also the case with resumes. Do not just keep using the same “template” cover letter, where you simply change the position and company name, sending it to every single employer. Experienced professionals know a form letter when they see it and will feel that if you can’t be bothered to spend the effort on a personalized cover letter, then they shouldn’t bother with you. Take a little more time to create a unique cover letter that is geared toward the job and you will see results.

The next step in how to write a cover letter is the introduction. This is a brief paragraph where you will greet the employer, tell them the job you are applying for, and mention to them where you found the job posting. This makes it very easy for human resources professionals to sort the myriad letters they get daily for various openings. The aspect of personalizing your cover letter is very important here. Get the name of the contact person who will receive your letter. Nothing turns a professional off like receiving a letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern.”

The next piece of the cover letter is the true body of the piece. Here is where you will do the most customization as well. In the body of the cover letter, you will introduce yourself and tell the employer more about you. You need to look over your resume and the job posting and pick a few key points where your qualifications closely match the requirements of the position. Highlight these areas in order to “sell yourself” to the employer. This will be a paragraph or two where you will summarize your skills and how they relate to the job. Doing this increases the possibility that the human resources person reading your letter will then move on to your resume. This leads to the next part of how to write a cover letter.

The last paragraph in your cover letter is the call to action. This is where you drive home the work you did in the previous paragraph and open the lines of communication and, subtly, request an interview. In the call to action paragraph, you need to mention your resume is attached. After that, tell them to please feel free to contact you via telephone or email if they require further information “or to meet to discuss this position further.” This is a low pressure approach to set up an interview. Wrap up the cover letter thanking the employer for their time and consideration.

A good cover letter should be tailored to the specific employer and job and should position you as a courteous, enthusiastic and professional employee. It should encourage the recipient (by name, of course) to eagerly read your resume by showing some qualifications up front and to contact you to meet in person. A strong cover letter will do all this and will get you on your way to getting that job.