Writing an excellent cover letter can be the key to gaining more interviews and getting better jobs and ultimately careers. I have worked in several management roles and have found a well-written cover letter to make a candidate stand out. Today, it is rare to receive a well-written cover letter if you even receive one at all-so you can make your mark with a potential employer by showing the effort of penning a great cover letter.
The first step is to create a template that you can use for multiple jobs. Make a letter head with your name, address, phone number and email. Save it and use that for every cover letter you plan to write. Keep it updated and check it before you send any application and update it frequently. It may be a good idea to make an email address just for job applications.
Additionally, you need to include the address for the location you are applying for. This shows that you have personalized your cover letter to the job and that you’ve done enough basic research to show you care about the position. You want to include this above the body of the document.
If you can, find out who the hiring manager or HR manager is for the company you’re applying with. Address the letter to him or her using the salutation, “Dear.” It is much more formal to use the full name, not just the first name. For example, if the HR manager is Jon Doe, your salutation should read, “Dear Mr. Doe.”
If you can’t locate the name of the manager, you can address the cover letter as, “To Whom it Concerns at [Company Name],” or “To Whom it Concerns in Human Resources at [Company Name].” Both of these are formal and will get the letter to the right person. Reiterating the company name shows, once again, you’ve personalized the letter to their company and aren’t using the same letter over and over.
You should open the body of your letter by stating your name, the position you applied to and where you heard about the job. This is particularly important if you were referred by an employee that currently or formerly worked for the company. This may allow the HR manager to contact that person directly about your credentials. This is a good time to introduce any educational degrees or training you may have.
The next sentences should outline your skills that are pertinent to the job. Here I would list one to three specific skills you have that set you apart or that you feel are going to be important at the job. For example, if you’re applying to a retail job, talk about your people skills, selling ability or leadership skills.
You should close this paragraph with a sentence or two of why you feel you would be a good candidate for the job. You could say something about being interested in launching your career or something you believe in that the company also stands for or is well known for.
The body of your cover letter should outline in specific details of jobs or other experiences you’ve had that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. Include the location of the job and your title there and briefly talk about your responsibilities in that position. Read the job description for the job you’re applying for and use that language in your description of your skills.
For example, if the job description says they desire a strong leader, tell about a position where you were a manager or provided guidance to other employees on a project. If you haven’t worked before, talk about experiences in school or extra curricular activities which would match what they are looking for in a candidate.
It’s important to be concise while being thorough. Think about the most important parts of your job. If you were a manager, your more important tasks would be working the sales floor and managing staff. A less important part might be opening boxes of products or cleaning the store. If you’re struggling with describing your skills in sentences, make a bulleted list of what you did there and piece together at least one to two paragraphs.
The closing should reiterate why you want to work for the company. Mention again your desire to work there and why, and again list your skills or career goal with that company. Thank the hiring manager for taking the time to consider your application and tell them you are interested in learning more about the job or the company.
Also include information about when you can be interviewed. If you have open availability, mention that you can be reached at any time. Even though your header has your phone number and other contact information, make sure you include at least your email address and phone number in the closing.
The valediction is how you close the letter, and should remain professional. “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or even a simple “Thank You,” are all appropriate closings. After this, include your full name. If you are handing it in on paper, leave a space or two under the valediction to sign your name above your typed name.
One final tip is to get a friend or family member to review your cover letter. Sometimes a second or third set of eyes can find errors or help with wording. You want to make sure your language is strong and clearly shows your best skills and assets.
Follow these tips and you can be sure to have a well written cover letter that will catch the eye of a potential employer. Pair your cover letter with a well constructed resume and just wait for the calls for an interview.