Resumes are basic tools to list your skills and experience but a cover letter can be crafted to show some personality and give the employer better insight into who you are. Covering your resume with the perfect letter is just as important as the resume itself. This letter can discuss situations that cannot be easily explained on a resume. For example, a gap in work history, volunteer work or other learning experiences that would be an asset to the position as well as giving an overall idea of the type of person that you are.
There are some points to consider when writing a cover letter. Some basics are:
- Make sure that you write your name and the date at the top – A nice touch to make your resume and cover letter look uniform is to use the same header for both
- Below your header information, write the name, title and address of the person you are writing to.
- Never address the letter to “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” This is extremely important. Give the company’s HR department a call and see who the hiring manager is. If they cannot give you the name, you may ask for the name of the Director of Human Resources and address the letter to him/her.
- Keep it brief, usually no more than 3 to 5 paragraphs. I personally think three is plenty.
- Try and keep from using sentences that begin with “I”.
As stated above, 3 paragraphs are usually plenty when writing a cover letter. Here is a basic template on what to write:
The First Paragraph: State your interest in the job you are applying for. Tell the employer where you located the position as well as the job title as well. They also may have a job search number in the job posting that you should list as well. You can also begin to tell the employer the skills that you have that would make you a perfect match for this position.
The Second Paragraph: Mention your background concisely, including your skills, education and special training and work experience that qualify you for the job. This is where you may talk about a key accomplishment or experience that you wanted to discuss further and couldn’t do on a resume. Most importantly you can speak about the company and why you want to work for them. This information shows the employer that you did your research and that it is not a basic “cold letter” that you have sent out to more than one job posting. Structure the letter to show your individuality, however, keep it to the point without appearing too overbearing, humorous or cute.
The Third Paragraph: You may thank the employer for taking the time to read the letter and state that you will be calling to follow up on your resume. Use a closing such as “Sincerely”, and sign the letter, if sending a hard copy with either blue or black ink.
Some other obvious tips are to have someone read your letter before sending it out. Any grammatical errors, misspellings, or content that may be inappropriate should be avoided. You can also add some of the language that the employer has on their website or the job posting to make you seem like the ideal candidate for the position. Taking the time to write a cover letter and resume that describes your skills and is particular to that employer will get you closer to getting that job! The effort is worth it!