“NO!” my friend shouted, upset.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, leaving the kitchen to join them in the living room.
“This company wants a cover letter in addition to a resume!”
I understand why it can seem distressing to have to add a cover letter to a resume. It’s enough of a pain to have to customize your resume to each position so to have to add a cover letter on top of that can seem troublesome.
However, I prefer to view cover letters as blessings.
The purpose of a cover letter
A cover letter is a chance to introduce yourself to your potential employer, to let your personality shine from behind the pristine monotony of the pile of resumes. As such, there’s a lot of pressure to make sure that your cover letter is immaculate.
As such, there’s a lot of pressure to make sure that your cover letter is immaculate. And it should leave a good impression. But it should also leave an accurate impression.
Employers request cover letters so that they can have a better understanding of your skills and experience.
That’s not to say you should repeat what’s on your resume in your cover letter. It’s more like a sales pitch to sell yourself to the company, where you elaborate on why your goals match the company’s goals and where you describe how your employment will serve the employer.
What should I include in a cover letter?
Since the purpose of a cover letter is to sell yourself, you’ll want to include the following information:
- The title of the job you’re applying for
- How (who) you learned about the job (from)
- Why you’re the best person for the job
- What experiences you’ve had that prepare your for this position
- Specifically why you’re the best person for the job
- What skills/goals you have that will help you in this position
- Seriously, the whole point of this letter is convincing them that you’re the best person for the job
Now that you’re prepared to sell yourself, here’s exactly where to include all of that information.
The header includes specific contact information for both yourself and the hiring manager of the position you’re applying for.
For your contact information, include:
- Full name
- Full physical address
- Phone number
- Email address
For the hiring manager’s contact information, include:
- The date you are writing the letter
- The hiring manager’s full name
- The company’s full address
- The company’s phone number
- The company (hiring manager)’s email address
Greet the manager politely by name (or if you can’t find their actual name, with “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom it May Concern”), and then write your first paragraph describing the position you’re applying for and then how you found out about the position.
In the middle of the letter, describe in a paragraph or two what experiences you’ve had that prepare your for the position and also what skills and goals you have that will help you in this position.
This is the selling point of the letter. Your goal is to convince the hiring manager that you as an employee are going to make their life better. You’re going to do the job in a way that is going to relieve their stress. You’re gonna be the best there ever was; so tell them exactly what that looks like.
If you know you’re going to be traveling and can’t work certain dates, mention them as you conclude. Restate why you’re the best candidate, thank them for the opportunity, and close formally (“Best regards” or “Sincerely,”) and type out your name. If you’re printing it off, go ahead and sign it for real under the typed name.
A cover letter should be no longer than one page. That, and it should follow these formatting rules:
- 1″-1.5″ margins
- At least 12 point font
- Choose a readable font—Times New Roman or a default, sans-serif font is always a good bet
- Add a space between each part of the letter for readability
- Leave your paragraphs left-aligned
Resume Genius has some really useful cover letter templates if you’re still concerned about how awesome your cover letter is.
Proofread and send it in
Don’t forget to make your cover letter immaculate once you’ve pitched yourself to your future employer. If you’re printing it, make sure that it looks swell (no faded print, please).
And don’t stress your cover letter. You are more likely to accurately represent yourself if you’re writing sincerely and hopefully. You’ve put the work into your resume; use that to help you decide what’s important to write about in your letter.
I’d rather turn in a resume with a cover letter than without one. Being able to hear someone’s voice on paper is a helpful way to convince someone that you’re actually going to be worth their time.
So what do you think—what things do you include in your cover letters to make them stand out? If you’re an employer, what things do you like or not like to see in your letters? Share in the comments below!