Use these cover letter tips for writing a cover letter so your job application gets noticed by prospective employers.
You've found the job you want and have spruced up your resume in hopes of getting it. Now all you have to do is submit it, right? Not so fast!
Every resume should have a great cover letter to go with it.
So what's a cover letter? And why do you need one?
This lesson will help you answer these questions as you explore interactive examples. Specifically, you will learn the purpose of a cover letter, identify the main parts of a cover letter, find out what makes a cover letter effective, and use several cover letter dos and don'ts as you write your own cover letter.
As discussed in our Resume Writing tutorial, prospective employers use your resume to learn about your education, skills, and work history, as well as who you are and how to reach you. Your cover letter has a slightly different purpose.
As the name implies, a cover letter is a document that introduces you and accompanies your resume. It is what a hiring manager will see first.
In a competitive job market, hiring managers may get hundreds of resumes for only one position. Going through all of them can be time consuming. To alleviate the time strain, most hiring managers will quickly read over or scan cover letters to decide which resumes to read more closely.
Both resumes and cover letters should be customized for each specific job opportunity. If you see a job posting that requests a resume, send both a cover letter and resume.
Include a cover letter every time you submit a resume for a job, even if you are emailing it or uploading it to a job board!
A cover letter is really just a formal business letter that acts as an introduction to your resume. Because it is a formal business document, it should be in block business letter format. In this format, text is left justified (aligned on the left-hand margin).
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about the different parts of a cover letter:
This is the date the letter is written. We recommend using the Day Month, Year format, like this: January 27, 2009
Here, you should provide your home mailing address, followed by the hiring manager's address.
The greeting is an important part of your cover letter. It establishes who you are sending the resume and cover letter to. We recommend that you try to find the name of the hiring manager to use here. If you can't find a name, use a generic term like Staff Selection Team or Hiring Manager.
The body is the main part of your cover letter. This is where you explain what job you are interested in and how you learned about it. It should also present you as the best possible candidate for the job, and explain what actions you will take next.
We'll talk more about what to include in the body of your cover letter on the next page.
Use a polite and professional phrase here, such as Sincerely, Respectfully, or Kind Regards.
This area should contain your name, a written signature (if you're mailing the letter), and another way to contact you (such as a phone number or email address).
Use this line whenever you include a separate item in the same envelope or email message. It will tell the recipient to look for the enclosed attachment, which will usually be your resume, but could also be samples of your previous work.
If you're sending a cover letter via email, you don't need to include the date, return address, or mailing address at the top of the page. Just include your own address and other contact information, such as your email or phone number, below your name in the signature area.
To be effective, the body paragraphs of your cover letter must really sell you as the best candidate for the job. This area should highlight your accomplishments and qualifications, as well as explain how you can benefit the company. It should be easy to read and have a positive tone.
Each paragraph of your cover letter has a different purpose, and there are strategies you can use to make each paragraph effective.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to review the three body paragraphs in this cover letter:
The first paragraph can start with an introduction, but it should always start by stating which job you are applying for. Include the job name and number (if applicable). You should also mention where you found the job posting.
Try to include some details about the company you found while researching the job. This kind of detail can help to demonstrate your interest in the position.
Another good strategy in the opening paragraph is to explain your relationship with the company (if you have one).
The second paragraph should work to position you as the ideal candidate for the job. It should also describe your career accomplishments, demonstrate that they meet or exceed the job requirements, and explain how you will be an asset to the company.
You may want to use a bulleted list to make this section easier for the hiring manager to scan.
The third paragraph should request an interview or meeting, provide your preferred contact information, and thank the hiring manager for considering your application.
The following are some tips to make your cover letter the best it can be.
This includes the job description, name of the hiring manager, and any other research you have gathered about the company.
Some employers may want you to provide additional materials, such as writing samples, with your resume. Others might not accept applications that are sent via email. Before you respond to any job posting, read the directions carefully so you can provide exactly what is required.
If this is not possible, use a gender-neutral greeting, like Dear Hiring Manager or Staff Selection Team.
Focus on the purpose of each paragraph:
Characteristics of good writing for cover letters include:
This should be done only after you are completely satisfied with the content of your rough draft.
Note: Our Microsoft Office tutorials cover formatting in more depth.
If you want to make your application look extra nice, you can print your cover letter and resume on resume paper. Resume paper is sometimes also known as business or specialty paper, and it is thicker and rougher than regular printer paper. However, it's also more expensive, so you may not want to use it for every job application.
There are several things job seekers can do in their cover letters that can actually hurt their chances of getting an interview. You will want to avoid these mistakes.
Open the Microsoft Word Cover Letter Template and Save it to your computer with a name that makes sense to you.
Enter your own information into the document as you progress through this activity by replacing the text inside the [brackets]. Remove the brackets as well.
Refer to the picture below as you make changes to the top portion of your cover letter.
123 Long Lake Boulevard
Raleigh, N.C. 27601
If you do not have a contact name, you can omit this section or include a line that indicates what the letter is in response to, such as RE: Office Manager postion (Craigslist posting CR-01004-OM). This can help the person handling the mail pass your cover letter and resume on to the correct person within the company.
If you do not have a contact name, you can use something generic and non-gender specific such as Dear Staff Selection Team or Dear Hiring Manager. However, resume experts recommend trying to find the name of the person who will be hiring for the position.
Refer to the picture below as you make changes to the body of your cover letter.
Refer to the picture below as you make changes to the bottom portion of your cover letter.
Don't forget to have several people review your cover letter before you send it out!
Need More Help? Go to our Microsoft Office tutorials cover how to format a document in more depth.