Crafting a Cover Letter

by Caitlin Kirchner | Leave a Comment

After the resume, a cover letter is the next most important career document.

A well-crafted cover letter will tell your story. Ideally it will describe your key skills, accomplishments and showcase why you are the ideal person for the job. This might sound like a daunting task, but with some key information and a basic outline, you will be able to add an awesome cover letter to any job application.

The Outline

Think of your cover letter like a three paragraph essay:  you will need beginning, middle and closing paragraphs.

Opening – Introduce yourself, state the position you’re applying for and the reason why you’re applying.

Middle – Describe your strengths and qualifications for the position.

Closing – Include a conclusion and outline next steps.

The Key Information

These are the pieces of information that you should gather before you begin writing. This groundwork will make writing the cover letter a little easier.

Hiring Manager Name – You will impress right from the start if you make your letter personal to a hiring manager or group. Many people skip this step but it is an important one. Instead of the impersonal “to whom it may concern” or “sir or madam,” get on the website and find the name of a hiring manager, department head or even CEO. You could also address it to the entire working group (“Dear Product Development Team”). Double check your spelling too – personalization spelled incorrectly won’t make the good impression you’re hoping for.

 

A Story – Think of a brief, interesting anecdote of how you became interested in the field. This is an opportunity to share your passion and help convey your unique story. For example, maybe your passion for physical therapy came from a love of problem solving and leading an active lifestyle. Whatever it is, it will be more memorable than stating you found the job on a career site like indeed.

 

What You Love About the Company – A big part of the search process for you and the employer is finding the right fit. Do you love the innovative culture at the company you are applying to? Or their philanthropy work?  Briefly describe why you’re drawn to the company and why you’ll be the right fit (beyond your skills).

 

Key Skills and Accomplishments – Rather than recreating your resume, your cover letter should showcase specific reasons why you’re the most qualified candidate. Review the job description and pull together three key skills or accomplishments that demonstrate that you have the qualifications to be the best candidate.

 

The Process

After gathering all your information, plug it into the outline:

Opening – Address someone or a group specifically. Introduce yourself and list your three key skills.

Middle – Start with your story and passion for the company – you’re setting up why you’ll fit the culture and show that it’s not just some job, but the specific job that you want. Then, briefly describe each key accomplishment or skill.  Your resume says you have it but the cover letter is a venue for highlighting why you are the best fit.

End – Thank the reader for his or her time to review your application and briefly outline the next steps you would like to see happen.  You can also list how best to contact you.

Keep in Mind…

  • This is a professional business letter so use proper business formatting – block style is most popular. You can find these templates online.
  • Keep the letter to just one page. Though it’s only one page, be sure to fill it, without too many gaps.
  • Match the formatting – fonts, margins, headers – to your resume.
  • Watch grammar and punctuation and have multiple people proofread before submitting.
  • Highlight your experience and support with examples. Don’t minimize what you do have or dwell on what you don’t. This letter is meant for you to sell yourself.

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