For job seekers that want to attract attention from a potential employer, a résumé is not enough. Résumés are obviously important and critical to a job seeker’s set of tools. However, for job seekers looking to make the best impression possible and to get possibly more attention to sell themselves to employers, a cover letter can be extremely valuable.
Employment experts state that a cover letter is a great tool to use to gain the attention of an employer and to convince him or her that you are ultimately the best candidate for the position. Just as résumés can help you get a job interview, cover letters can boost your odds of being noticed and let into the door to further sell yourself.
In most cases, a cover letter is challenging to write, but since it is less technical than a résumé, most job seekers can accomplish a well-crafted cover letter in just a few hours time. Below you will find some general guidelines on writing a cover letter than can boost your chances of employment, but keep in mind that the goal of a cover letter is also to write something compelling enough that will allow you to stand out from the crowd of other well qualified applicants.
The Cover Letter Format
Generally speaking, cover letters include the following sections: the heading, the body of the letter and the salutation. Here are some more details.
On a cover letter, the top of the letter should consist of a normal business heading that includes your address, a space beneath the address and then the date all aligned to the left. Below the date type the name of the employer you are writing to. If the job advertisement you are answering includes a specific person, list it here along with the title. Below the name and title, type the company’s legal name followed by the legal address.
If you would like to include a specific person and title, one strategy is to contact the company to find out who should receive your cover letter and résumé. You can also use a generic term (e.g. Attention: Director of Human Resources).
The Body of the Letter
The body of the letter should include three paragraphs. The first paragraph is called the “Why” paragraph, this is where you state why you are contacting the company. The second paragraph is called the “Qualifications” paragraph. This is where you list your qualifications for the job and finally the third paragraph of the body is called the “Wrap Up” paragraph where you wrap up any loose ends and end your letter.
The “Why” Paragraph
The why paragraph makes it easy to accomplish a few important things up front. First off, the why paragraph states which specific position you are seeking. Keep in mind the more concise and clear your statements are – the better. For instance, if you are seeking a job as a tax supervisor, don’t state that you are seeking a job in the financial field. In addition to the type of job you are seeking you should write how you became aware of the position either through a newspaper advertisement, Internet and especially if it was through a friend that the employer may know.
The Qualifications Paragraph
The qualifications paragraph is where you should come out strong and sell yourself for the position. Not only should you list your qualifications and achievements in a concise and substantive manner, but you should also back these achievements up. The goal of this paragraph is for you to stand out as a well-qualified person who rises above other possible candidates. While the qualifications paragraph is generally one paragraph, extending it to two is perfectly fine, as long as you have something smart to say.
The Final Paragraph
The final paragraph is where one wraps up and neatly ends the letter. It should include a sentence to wrap things up, a sincere thanks to the reader of the letter for taking the time to read your letter, a mention that your résumé is enclosed and a request to be considered for a job interview. In addition, it is a good idea to insert a follow up, such as that you will be contacting them shortly in a few days or a week to make sure the résumé was received and to offer more information. Keep in mind that the final paragraph should be tight; you don’t need to draw it out or make the thank you extra gratuitous.
Below the final paragraph should be the salutation. The use of “sincerely” should be fine. Beneath the salutation, you should sign your name.
Some Final Suggestions to Consider
Cover letters should generally be one page in length. While the format is not as rigid as résumés, if your letter is longer than one page, staple the pages together so that they do not become separated.
Before sending your cover letter, make sure you check for spelling or grammatical errors. A small error can leave a very bad first impression.
Print your résumé and cover letter out on the same type of paper. For a good impression, purchase high quality résumé paper.
Most companies like when you are knowledgeable about them, make sure you research the company first and pepper in a few details of why you would specifically seek a job at that company.
Sign the cover letter with a pen. You should use either blue or black ink only.