How to Craft Your Cover Letter
Cover letters are the most misunderstood aspects of the application process. Few people understand the purpose of a cover letter and even fewer know how to write it in the correct format. Resumes are the most important way to showcase your talents but excellent cover letters can be the key to getting an interview.
Cover Letter Purpose
Cover letters are designed to complement your resume. Your resume is where you list facts, statistics and expertise. Your cover letter is where you add the human element. Cover letters give you the opportunity to show the employer how your past work history and education will make you a good fit for the job.
Rather than listing your qualifications in a resume, cover letters will highlight specific skills, knowledge and expertise that the employer is looking for. It is also an opportunity for you to showcase your personality. Cover letters are the first thing that employers read. Great cover letters are able to capture the employer’s attention and make them want to give you the job.
Common Cover Letter Mistakes
It is important to view cover letter examples before you write your own letter to the employer. Mistakes on cover letters are very common even with the most seasoned job applicants. The most common cover letter mistakes include:
- Content is too long.
- Content is not tailored to specific job.
- Content does not follow correct guidelines.
- Content is sloppy, with spelling and grammar errors.
- Content is too casual.
Cover letters are the first document that the employer will see. That is why it is very important that you take the time to write a great cover letter and follow all of the basic guidelines that make good cover letters successful.
Sample Cover Letter Format
Cover letters have a very strict format. This format is designed to make it easy for employers to read. It also gives the hiring manager an opportunity to see how well you follow rules and expectations. It is a good idea to view cover letter samples for formatting ideas before you craft your letter.
Cover letters start out with your contact information, followed by the date and employer contact information. Write a salutation to either the specific recipient or “To Whom it May Concern” if the recipient is not known. The body of the letter is broken up into three paragraphs.
- First Paragraph – Should only contain a brief summary of the job to which you are applying and where you came across the opening.
- Second Paragraph – Should contain what makes you qualified for the position. Here is where you will explain to the employer why you deserve an interview.
- Third Paragraph – Should thank the employer for the opportunity and mention a method of following up.
There should be no content beyond those three paragraphs. You may add a bulleted list to the second paragraph or split it into two paragraphs if it makes more sense grammatically. Otherwise it should remain in the format above. After writing the content you should write a standard letter closing such as “Sincerely,” followed by your name. The entire cover letter should be no more than one page.
Selected for an Interview
Cover letters are your chance to speak directly to an employer before you have your interview. They are the first document your employer will see and the one that will give you the chance to make your application stand out from other applicants. Though they have a set structure, a powerful cover letter will give your resume a voice that will convince employers to select you for a job interview.