When it comes to the job hunt, many people find themselves avoiding positions that require cover letters. The biggest reason is usually not knowing what to say or how to say it. These documents can prevent qualified candidates from applying to positions they could excel at.
That’s why we’ve put together a brief guide on how to easily write a cover letter. The next time you have to apply for a job that requires this document, know you can apply with confidence.
The Basic Format
Cover letters are intimidating if you aren’t familiar with writing them. Just like every other type of document, though, they have a structure. Unless a company has specifically asked for it in a certain format, you can use the following as a guideline.
A basic cover letter should include:
- The date
- A greeting
- One paragraph about how you found the job
- One paragraph about why you are a good candidate for the job
- One paragraph tying it all together and closing with desire to meet and answer any additional questions
- A salutation
- Your signature
- Your name
Your cover letter should also be designed to use the same font as your resume. If you have a heading on your resume, include that on your cover letter so the reader knows exactly who you are and how to contact you.
Keep in mind that cover letters aren’t always attached to resumes. Because of this, it’s important to include your name, phone number, and email address in the header of both your resume and cover letter.
Addressing Your Letter
Many job openings include hints about who will be reading your letter. Check the listing, the email address they tell you to submit to, or the company website to see if you can figure out the name of their hiring manager.
If you can, address the letter to that person. Companies love to see that you’ve done your research.
If there’s no information about who will be reading the letter, you can open with “Dear Hiring Manager”. Try to avoid writing, “To whom it may concern.” Many hiring managers think this is outdated or impersonal.
Writing About the Position
Your letter should start like this:
November 14, 2019
Dear Hiring Manager or a specific name,
After you’ve added this section, it’s time to get into the first paragraph. This should be 1-4 sentences long and should cover the following points:
- How you found the job (the name of the job board, social media platform, the name of the person who recommended you, etc.)
- The title of the job you’re applying for
- Why you’re interested in the job
- One sentence on why your skills would fit the position (Don’t worry. You can write more about this later.)
This paragraph is meant to let the reader know who you are, where their job ad was successful, and which position you’re applying for. Keep in mind that a lot of companies list many job openings at once, so you’ll need to include the title of the position to clarify.
This paragraph is just a summary of the whole job experience. The next one is where you get deeper.
Writing About Your Skills
In the second paragraph, you’ll get to expand on the last bullet point in the first paragraph. Take some time to write about:
- 1-2 relevant skills you have for the position
- A specific example of these skills
- How these skills will help the company
This paragraph can be longer but remember that your entire cover letter needs to fit on one page. Try to keep this around 5 sentences. Be sure to mention specific examples of your skills and tie them back to the job you’re applying for. Focus on how you’ll help the company, not just on why you’re good for the job.
Remember that you’ll be submitting a cover letter and resume together, so you can talk about skills that are listed on your resume if you’d like.
Wrapping It All up
The last paragraph of your cover letter should be the shortest. Keep this between 1-3 sentences and use these to summarize the points you made in the paragraph above. Make sure to also include the name of the position one more time, and end with a sentence about how you look forward to talking about the position in the future.
After this, finish with a salutation like “sincerely” or “thank you,” followed by your signature and your name.
That’s it! Every industry may be a little different, but if you follow these steps, you should be writing confident cover letters in no time.
The BCVision team is dedicated to developing the workforce in Battle Creek. We are happy to provide assistance and resources, whether you’re looking for a job, in the process of interviewing for a job, or want to further your education to move up in your career. Reach out to partners like Michigan Works! Southwest for the next step in your career, or contact us for more information.