When vetting job applicants, most employers read the cover letter first. If it doesn’t grab their attention, they may not go on to the résumé. Think of your cover letter as a commercial for yourself.
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Your goal is to spark employers’ interest so that they want to know more about you. A well crafted cover letter shows what you would bring to the company and why you are a good match for the job.
- Unless the job posting specifically says otherwise, always include a cover letter.
- The letter should be no more than one page.
- Address your letter to a specific person, not just to a title or department.
- Refer to the exact job you are applying for, including a reference code if there is one.
- Use active, not passive, voice. For example, “I won an award,” not, "I was awarded."
- Spelling and grammar are crucial. Proofread your letter several times and ask someone else to review it, too.
Composing Your Cover Letter
- Divide the letter into three sections: a brief introduction (1-2 sentences); a middle paragraph with several sentences or bullets; and a brief closing.
- In the first paragraph, tell the employer what job you are applying for, and (if applicable) who referred you.
- In the middle section, briefly describe your skills, show how you’d use your experience in the new job, and say why you’re applying. This is your chance to sell yourself! Describe a major achievement, use concrete details, and cite examples.
- Repeat some of the keywords you see in the job posting in your cover letter (and in your résumé, of course).
- In the last paragraph, thank the employer and give your contact information.
- Use online tutorials and sample cover letters to get you started. QuintCareers.com and The Riley Guide offer some good examples, or read about cover letters for career changers.