By Jesse Collier. Updated November 2017.
Not sure how to write a cover letter? Don’t worry, as this is the only guide you will need to ensure you get an interview!
Learning how to write a cover letter can be a challenging and very frustrating task, especially if it’s your first time. It requires revision, proofreading, and formatting to ensure the cover letter looks clean and polished.
The good thing about creating cover letters is that for most positions you can simply tailor one or two cover letters to that job’s requirements. This will save a lot of time and effort on your end. Pair your cover letter with the perfect resume, and the employer will see your dedication to your work right off the bat.
You don’t want to rush into writing a cover letter and come out with something that you wouldn’t be proud to put your name on. Take some time, grab some paper and a pen, and get to brainstorming.
You want to first look at the requirements of the job to which you’re applying to.
Then, when the requirements state things such as “has experience in a team” and “ability to adapt and work in different situations”, think about relevant experience you have with those qualities. This experience usually comes from past work or extracurricular activities (sports teams or clubs at school).
For example, if you were the captain of your high school soccer team, that would be excellent experience for working in a team.
Once you have looked at all of the qualities listed on the job requirements, make sure you jot them down! Try to organize your ideas by each quality they’re looking for, that way it will be a lot easier to choose which ones you want to put into your cover letter.
While some places say you can have a max of 2 pages, we recommend making it short and sweet and having only one page.
The employer doesn’t want to read about your life story! They want it to highlight your most important qualities and answer why you would be perfect for the job.
Try to choose two or three points from each quality and create short paragraphs incorporating those qualities. Narrow down your qualities as much as possible!
What do employers want from you?
While reading through the qualities listed on the job requirements, you are getting a look of what the employer wants from the perfect candidate.
Shape your cover letter
If you’re applying to a field-specific job, you want to highlight those skills before your other achievements. This will ensure the employer knows you have the relevant experience for the position.
For example, if you are applying for a job in the computer science field, you want to detail your technical skills in the first paragraph of your cover letter.
Become the ideal candidate
Since each job varies in the qualities they are looking for, it can be hard to lay down a concrete list of traits to have experience from. However, here is a list of traits and skills that we notice keep recurring:
- Demonstrate strong leadership
- Perform well in a team
- Be able to adapt to various situations
- Have a good problem solving ability
- Have experience communicating to clients
- Be able to work independently
- Basic computer skills
- Basic knowledge of the Microsoft Office Suite
While this list won’t apply to every job, it is beneficial to make sure you can list at least one or two points from each of the traits and skills listed above from your experience. Don’t make stuff up, because if the employer asks you about your experience, you don’t want to be left fumbling. It’s best just to tell the truth and cater your cover letter to their expectations.
Structure your cover letter
You want to structure your cover letter so it is easy for the employer to see your skills and your experience and understand who you are.
Start with putting your contact details at the top of the page (full name, email, address, and phone number), then follow underneath it with the company’s main address.
Try looking on Google for their address in the city you are applying in. Also include the branch or division, if applicable.
After the contact details, you want to state the subject of your cover letter. This is usually the position you are applying for, along with the job ID, if any. For example, you could write “Subject: In regards to (position) at (company). (Job ID).
Next, you want to address the person you are talking to. Keep it general, such as “to whom it may concern” and do not write “miss”, “Mr.”, etc., as you usually won’t know who you’re writing to.
So now into the thick of things. Your first paragraph should include how you heard about the position and a little bit about who you are. You can include what and where you are studying for school, or what type of degrees you have.
In your next few paragraphs, highlight some important parts from your resume. Don’t just copy word for word from your resume, but write about the points in your resume that you feel are important to the position.
Write about how your education and experience would be beneficial to the company and how you could contribute. Essentially, you are “selling yourself” to the employer.
In your closing paragraph, write a call to action. For example, you could write “I would be happy to further discuss my qualifications with you in an interview”.
Indicate what other documents you are including with the cover letter. For example, “I have attached my resume with further and more complete information”.
Finally, thank the employer for his/her consideration and express how you are looking forward to a reply.
Filling in your cover letter
Now that you have an idea of your base structure for your cover letter, you want to work on putting all those ideas in it that you brainstormed.
Most employers will use a keyword search software. That means that they will search through all of the resumes and cover letters that they receive based on specific words.
Usually, these words are included within the job requirements and preferred qualities, so it is best to use the exact words they use in their job description.
For example, if the job description states they are looking for a person who “has experience communicating with customers”, then you should write something along the lines of “in my experience communicating with customers…”.
Again, try to organize your cover letter by putting the most relevant experience, skills, and traits first. This can be from work, volunteer, or extracurricular activities.
This will further drive your point home that you are the ideal candidate. Take out the ideas that you narrowed down and write two or three points about each idea. Write your cover letter while using the keywords as mentioned above to ensure you get your cover letter in front of the employer.
Top cover letter tips!
1. Write short sentences, but keep them relevant to the skills or experience you are describing
2. Use a legible font such as Times New Roman with 12 pt so your cover letter is easy to read
3. Don’t put in personal information such as your health or birth date
4. Try to keep it max one page as the employer doesn’t want to read a book, and keeping it clean and concise ensures you highlight the most important skills and traits
5. Don’t put in any pictures or photos as that can lead to biased decisions and legal trouble from the employer
6. Always review your cover letter and even better, have someone else review it as they can catch mistakes you might have missed
7. Don’t worry if your cover letter looks different from ones you have seen online – every cover letter will be different and will be adapted for different job requirements. Try not to be too fancy and stay away from large logos or borders
8. Most of the time, use “I” instead of “we”, even if you worked on a team. You want to highlight your skills, not what other people can do
9. Remember to use keywords in your cover letter that match the job description
10. Don’t repeat yourself. Try to use different words in your sentences and vary your sentence length
Finally, good luck on the job search and with your cover letters! If you have any questions or notice anything we missed, drop a comment below!
Also, don’t forget to keep your cover letter updated with any new experience or skills you have! Remember that once you have a few cover letters under your belt, you can usually adapt them to different job requirements without having to write another one.
Do you have a way of writing your cover letter that should be in this article? Let us know in a comment below!
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