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How and Why to Write a Great Cover Letter
A cover letter is a one-page business letter that you submit when applying to a job, along with your resume. As a piece of persuasive writing, your cover letter will aim to convey to the employer why you’re a great candidate for the role.
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
Your cover letter complements your resume by making it easy for the employer to see how your experience and interest connect to the position. Your goal is to convince the employer to interview you.
With your cover letter, you’ll aim to:
- Highlight your qualifications: You’ll show how your skills and experience relate to the employer’s needs for a specific position.
- Showcase your motivation: You’ll demonstrate your enthusiasm for the specific position and the organization.
- Reflect your voice and written communication skills: You’ll give the employer a sense of your personality and writing style.
When should I write a cover letter?
Not all jobs require cover letters. So, how do you decide whether to submit one?
Submit a Cover Letter when…
- The posting explicitly requests that you do so
- You’re applying to an opportunity at a mission-driven organization
- You think that doing so could provide important information to the employer that they wouldn’t get from your resume
Consider Submitting a Cover Letter when…
- It’s marked “optional” in an application, and you have the bandwidth to do so
- You have content that you can easily recycle or repurpose into a tailored cover letter
No Need to Submit a Cover Letter when…
- A posting specifically tells you not to submit one
- There’s no way to submit one in an application portal, and doing so would require a serious workaround
If you’re applying to several similar opportunities, creating a draft cover letter in advance, geared toward that type of opportunity, can be a helpful way to save time in your actual application process.
How do I write a cover letter?
Your cover letter should articulate your qualifications and motivation for the position. Read the job description closely and research the organization. As you craft your cover letter, use examples that demonstrate your relevant skills, knowledge, and interests. The cover letter should be concise, clear, and well-organized.
Research the employer.
Learn enough about the organization to articulate why you are a strong fit for that firm.
- Review the firm’s website and LinkedIn page.
- Speak with current or previous employees.
- Read articles and social media for current news.
Analyze the job description
Look for skills, duties, and qualifications of the job so you can design your letter to match these as much as possible.
Reflect on your experience and motivation
Identify skills and personal qualities you have developed which will be useful in this role. Ask yourself:
- What attracts you about this role/company/industry?
- What have you have done in your work experiences, classes, internships, activities, projects, volunteer work, travel, etc., that is similar to the duties required of the job?
Cover Letter Structure
As a business letter, the cover letter should include:
- Heading: Include your name and contact information in the same format as your resume
- Salutation: Address your letter to the specific individual who can hire you, if this is known. If the name is not included in the job description, address the letter to the Hiring Manager or title mentioned in the job description.
- Body Paragraphs: Discuss your experiences, interests, and skills to show the employer how you can add value to their team. See the section below for more guidance.
- Signature Line: Include a closing and your name.
The cover letter should be one page, about three or four paragraphs, and single spaced. Use 10-12 point font and one inch margins.
When applying online, upload your cover letter as a PDF file, unless another format is specified. When sending your resume and cover letter by email, you may write a short note or paste your cover letter in the body of your email (without the address header) and also attach the PDF file.
Cover Letter Content
Your cover letter should answer who, what, when, where and why you are applying for the opportunity.
State the position for which you are applying. If you have a referral or spoke with someone from the company, you can mention it in the introduction. Provide some basic information about yourself; this can include your class year and what you’re studying at Columbia. Briefly outline why you’re interested in the organization and what you bring in terms of relevant experience and skills.
These paragraphs will highlight your qualifications and strengths that are most relevant to the organization and position. Use the job posting and your research as clues to determine what the employer is seeking in a candidate. Have your resume beside you and reflect on what you want the employer to know about you. Are there experiences you want to expand upon that demonstrate your understanding of the role and ability to do the job requirements?
Structure the paragraphs based on relevance, not chronology. Lead with your most relevant skill or strongest experience.
Start each body paragraph with a clear topic sentence. This can highlight a key skill set, a transferable experience, or a core area of knowledge you’ve built through your studies. Walk the reader through a project or experience, integrating the relevant skills you used and qualities you demonstrated. Provide details about your accomplishments and impact. Connect how these experiences have prepared you for this role and why you are motivated to do this job. There is no need to apologize if you feel you lack experience; focus on the accomplishments that you have.
Recap what you would bring to the organization and your interest in the position. Thank the employer for their consideration. Keep your tone positive and enthusiastic.
Check out our example of how to structure your cover letter content .
Use our Cover Letter Checklist to make sure your format and content is in line with best practices.
- Ensure that the content reflects the requirements in the job description
- Keep the cover letter concise, at one page or less
- Correct any errors in grammar, sentence structure, and spelling
- Use the active voice
- Avoid beginning too many sentences with “I”
- Search Search Please fill out this field.
What Is a Cover Letter?
Understanding cover letters, types of cover letters, how to write a cover letter, tips for writing a cover letter.
- Cover Letter FAQs
The Bottom Line
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What Is a Cover Letter? Types and How To Write One
A cover letter is a written document commonly submitted with a job application outlining the applicant's credentials and interest in the open position. Since a cover letter is often one of only two documents sent to a potential employer, a well- or poorly-written letter can impact whether the applicant is called for an interview .
- A cover letter is commonly submitted with a job application explaining the applicant's credentials and interest in the position.
- A good cover letter complements the resume and explains why the candidate is the ideal person for the job.
- Common cover letter mistakes can sink a job applicant.
Most job postings are done online and no longer require a physical application. Instead, applicants send companies a copy of their resume along with a cover letter either by email or with a hard copy through the mail. A resume offers a glimpse into the professional and academic experience of a potential employee. The cover letter, on the other hand, acts as an introduction written by the candidate to express their interest in the position and what makes them the best fit for the job.
A good cover letter complements a resume by expanding on items relevant to the job. In essence, it's a sales pitch that describes why the applicant is the best person for the position. Career experts advise job seekers to spend time customizing each cover letter for the particular position, rather than using a generic missive. Although this requires extra effort, it can be very helpful in allowing an applicant to stand out above the competition.
The cover letter provides information to the employer about who the candidate is as a professional and as a person. This includes their areas of interest, professional goals, knowledge, skills they've gained over the years, achievements, passions, and aspirations. The cover letter should be a one-page document that provides a clear and concise idea about why the candidate is the best person for the job . It should also highlight the cultural fit.
While there is no set template for a cover letter, the type of letter that you write will depend on the requirements of each individual company or employer. The information that is included in a cover letter will vary depending on the goals and purpose of your application.
- An application cover letter is the most familiar type of cover letter. This is generally written in response to a vacancy that is posted on a company's website or a job board. In addition to answering any specific questions posted in the job ad, it may also highlight any experience or skills that are suitable for the position.
- A referral cover letter is similar to an application letter, but it includes the name of a colleague or employee who recommended the applicant for the open position. A strong referral can help you stand out against other applicants.
- A prospecting cover letter , also known as a letter of interest, is written by a job seeker and addressed to a company where they would like to work. However, it is not aimed at a specific role or vacancy. Instead, this type of letter inquires about open positions in general and may highlight any special skills that make the writer suitable for the company.
When employers post a job ad that requires a cover letter, they may specify certain requirements for the cover letter to address. For example, they may require applicants to answer certain questions, or to respect a certain word limit. It is important to follow these requirements, as they reflect on the applicant's ability to understand and follow directions.
If the employer does not set any expectations, a typical cover letter should be about a page or less, and may include a formal greeting, contact information, and links to the applicant's portfolio or work. It should highlight any special skills, and explain why you would be a good fit for the position. This is your chance to impress the employer: Even if your resume does not have everything an employer wants, a well-written cover letter can make the applicant stand out from the crowd.
However, it is possible to include too much information. Most employers will simply glance at the majority of their cover letters, and a long-winded essay might end up at the bottom of the pile. A few short paragraphs explaining your skills, and why you chose that specific employer, should be enough to put your best foot forward.
Writing a cover letter doesn't have to be tedious—even though it may seem like it's a chore. Here are a few simple tips you may want to consider when composing your cover letter:
- Personalize your letter for each role. Never use a generic cover letter. This means you have to write a new one for each position. Be sure to include your strengths and skills, and explain why you’re the perfect candidate.
- Include contact information. If the posting doesn't include the hiring manager's name, call the company , or check its website. Including this person's name gives your letter a proper greeting and also shows you have initiative. And don't forget to add your contact information, too. This is important if your resume gets separated from your cover letter.
- Simplify your letter. Communicate clearly and concisely. Using complex words and sentences would most certainly fail to convey your intentions with the company and the person reading the letter probably won't bother with the rest of your application.
- Be specific when needed. Don't rehash your resume, so be sure to quantify your accomplishments. For instance, expand on your marketing experience in your cover letter by saying you brought in 200 additional clients each month and increased revenue to $10,000. This can set you apart from candidates with vague personal details.
- Proofread. After you’ve written the letter, go over it a few times to ensure there are no errors. Then ask someone else to do a once-over and recommend any changes you may need to make.
A simple, focused cover letter without any typos or grammatical errors will get you noticed by potential employers.
A perfect resume can often be sabotaged by a poorly thought-out cover letter or one that is laden with mistakes. Whether you include the letter as per required submission guidelines, or you simply want to emphasize your interest in the job, make sure you avoid making these blunders.
- Names matter. This includes the name of the hiring manager, the company, and yes, even yours. Make sure you have the right names and the correct spelling. And don't forget to change the names if you're using the same cover letter for multiple jobs.
- Restating your resume. Since the cover letter is used to identify your skills and explain how your previous experience is applicable to the desired position, don't restate the stuff on your resume. Remember, the cover letter should complement your resume, not just summarize it.
- Keep your letter tight. Recruiters often go through hundreds of applications and don't have time to read through a three-page missive. The absolute maximum length for a cover letter should be one page, with a few concise paragraphs.
- Omit unnecessary details. Stay on topic. There's no need to mention your graphic-design skills if you're applying for an accounting position. It's a good idea to leave out personal things like your IQ, recreational accomplishments, interests, and hobbies. That is unless they relate to the job or company.
- Avoid sounding arrogant. Ensure your cover letter does not make you appear arrogant . While the cover letter is about you and your accomplishments, find a way of saying "I'm the best" without actually saying it. Avoid overusing words like "I," "me," or "my."
- Remember that spelling counts. Typos and grammatical errors can show you didn't bother to proofread your own letter. And make sure to be consistent—don't convey a dash with "--" in one place and "—" in another.
- Design matters : with the proliferation of publishing, design trends, and software, candidates have become creative in making their cover letter stand out from a design perspective. Make sure your cover letter projects your personality in terms of design while remaining professional. That is personal signature and branding.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
According to Indeed , a leading job-seeking site, a typical cover letter should be about three or four paragraphs long and highlight any special experience or achievements that make the applicant exceptionally well-suited to the position.
How Do You Start a Cover Letter?
A cover letter should start with a formal greeting, preferably addressed to the hiring manager. If you do not know who will be reading your cover letter, a generic "to whom it may concern" is an acceptable, albeit old-fashioned, way to address a cover letter. It is also acceptable to address the letter to a title, such as "Dear Hiring Manager," or "Dear Talent Acquisition Team."
What Should a Cover Letter Contain?
An effective cover letter should highlight the applicant's skills, experience, and any achievements that make them a good fit for their prospective employer. It is also a good chance to mention anything that is not included in the resume: For example, if an applicant is drawn to a certain employer because they love a certain product, the cover letter is a great place to mention it. Make sure your cover letter also includes your name and contact information.
In a competitive jobs market, an effective cover letter is one way to make a job application stand out. This is a chance for an applicant to demonstrate why they think they would be a good fit. However, a poorly-written or meandering cover letter can hurt an application more than it helps.
Harvard Extension School. " Resources and Cover Letters: An Extension School Resource ," Pages 3 and 5.
Harvard Extension School. " Resources and Cover Letters: An Extension School Resource ," Page 5.
Jobscan. " Cover Letter Formats ."
Indeed. " What Is a Cover Letter? "
Indeed. " How to Address a Cover Letter (With Examples). "
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What Is The Purpose Of A Cover Letter In An Application
- What's the purpose of a cover letter?
How cover letters can help explain employment gaps
What are the basic parts of a cover letter, what to leave off your cover letter.
Quick Answer: A cover letter is an extension of your resume. It provides a more personalized introduction to show the company why you're the best candidate for the job, and gives you the opportunity to explain any employment gaps. A cover letter should include your personal information, relevant qualifications, values and goals, and a call to action. Make it personal, engaging, and professional.
Everyone says you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. And all of those unnamed people are completely right. First impressions are essential, especially when you’re looking for a job.
So you made a great resume, with a unique template, one that covers all the important past experiences and how you’re the best employee that would grace us with its presence on this planet.
But how can you make this even better?
This is when cover letters step in.
Even if you’re not required to write one when you apply for a certain position, it can only help.
In this article, we will show you all the benefits of sending a cover letter, the basic outline that you can follow, some common mistakes, and many other cover letter tips.
Let’s dive in.
What's the purpose of a cover letter?
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Cover letters are an extension to your CV or resume that will dive even deeper into your professional and personal qualifications, showing the company why you are the best candidate for the job.
It’s something that a lot of candidates skip when they apply for a certain position, so if you have a cover letter, you are already a couple of steps ahead of the competition!
These letters are a great way to properly introduce yourself in a more personalized way by addressing the points they care about the most.
Take it as something that would add a personal touch to all the facts and data you’ve already included in your resume, enticing them to read further and really get to know you.
It will show that you have put the time into researching the job you’re applying for. You know what they need and you will give it to them.
Before you start writing, take a look at some effective cover letters so that you can see how the candidates tailored the content to fit the company and how they expressed themselves.
Employment gaps can easily turn off an employer and give a bad impression of your consistency and work ethics. And the bad thing is, there is no space on the resume where you can explain them.
This happens most often when you use the chronological type of resume. If you’re still wondering which type of resume will suit your needs best, take a look at our resume guide .
So, if you’ve decided to use the reverse chronological resume , all your gaps will shine bright like the sun, and there is no space left where you can clarify the circumstances that surround them.
Cover letters give you the freedom to do just that. Use it to tackle any controversial topics head-on and don’t leave anything to the imagination of your potential employer.
Don’t try to hide those gaps or other pieces of information such as only working in a company for 2 months. The best tactic is to be upfront about everything so you can win their trust even before the interview.
Of course, you can always find employers that would be hesitant to hire someone with long employment gaps, regardless of the explanation. However, those are companies you don’t want to have anything in common with.
And remember, the goal of a cover letter is to get you an interview. Don’t over-explain yourself, 1 or 2 sentences per gap would be enough. If the recruiters need more information, they can just ask you during the interview.
Then you will have the chance to go in-depth and make the best impression since you can look at their reactions, analyze their behavior, and see how they react to certain pieces of information.
It’s best you start with an opening section that includes your personal information such as full name, address, email, phone number, etc. You can also insert a link to your professional profile, for example, LinkedIn.
Pay special attention to the email. It needs to look professional. No matter how long you’ve used your high-school email, “ [email protected] ” will not impress your future employers, unless you’re applying for a band.
Next is the greeting. Usually, the job offer includes the name of the hiring manager and if it doesn’t, take your time to research them. It will make a great impression if they see you made the effort to learn the contact names.
Still, it needs to be respectful. Say the name of the hiring manager is Josh. Don’t start with “Hey Josh” or “What’s up Josh?”. A simple “Dear Josh” would be great. Or, if you have a full name, use it – “Dear Mr.Smith”.
Representation of your qualifications
Now that you’ve finished with the presentations, it’s time to start advertising yourself.
Start with how you found out about the position and the things that motivated you to apply for it. Briefly explain how your qualifications and skills are related to the job, making sure you’re using the ones they specified in the ad.
If they are looking for someone who can manage multiple projects at a time, include it. See what they need the most in their candidates and if it’s something you’re confident in, don’t forget to put it in.
This part needs to be very engaging, it will determine whether they will continue reading or stop in the middle, throwing your resume and letter away for good.
Be specific about your achievements and responsibilities. “I was proofreading documents” is not as nearly as effective as “I was the main proofreader for all the legal documentation for the Accounting department”.
Be confident when you talk about what you’ve done but be careful not to appear cocky and arrogant. Simply highlight your accomplishments and let them speak for you, instead of saying how great and unique you are.
Values and Goals
The next section should include arguments about why you’re such a unique fit for the company, how they can benefit from someone with your personality, and how enthusiastic you are about applying for this position.
Take some time to explain about your hobbies, about you as a person. Show that you’re not a mindless robot, but a unique human being with their own passions and desires.
Share with them your dreams and what you expect to accomplish both as an employee of their company and in life in general.
If you’ve spent time volunteering, this is the perfect place to mention it and what it gave to you as a person and a professional.
End your cover letter with call to action
Now that you’ve listed all your amazing achievements, experience in the field, and personal qualifications, it’s time to finish off and entice the recruiting manager to contact you for an interview.
Remind them about the resume you’ve attached along with the cover letter and let them know the best way to contact you.
Thank them for the time they spent on your application and how you’ll be waiting in anticipation for the reply.
The recruiters shouldn’t doubt how much you want this job so make sure to remind them again. A simple “Eagerly waiting for your positive reply”, should do you just right.
Still not sure what to include? Take a look at some cover letter examples that have secured impressive job positions in no time!
Just as there are important things that would attract your future employers, there are some phrases that are a definite turn-off and should be avoided.
Let’s go through the main ones.
“Thank you for reading my resume.”
You can’t assume they’ve already read your resume. Chances are they haven’t and the cover letter is the first thing they go through.
“I will be an excellent fit for your position.”
Let your achievements and qualifications speak for you. And by saying “I will be”, you already assume they hired you, which is quite arrogant.
Instead, rephrase it to – “I believe I can be a great asset to your team/department/company.”
“Dear sir, or madman”
Since cover letters include more written content than resumes, any punctuation and grammar errors will be easily noticed.
An inconsistent and incorrect writing style will make a really bad impression and everything else you’ve put as accomplishments and experience will be of no importance.
Proofread a few times. We recommend that you use an online tool like Grammarly or Enhancv’s Content Analyzer .
Be careful when you choose the font, make sure it’s professional. A cover letter entirely written in Comic Sans will throw off any sane, intellectual human being on this planet.
Cover letters are an extremely useful addition to your resume. They bring character and soul to the factual CV or work resume.
Most companies look for people that would add value to their business and a cover letter should be used to show them just that.
How you can give them exactly what they need and much more.
Still, cover letters can be quite difficult to pull off. Do your research, both for the company itself and for all the things a cover letter should include, as well as the recommended writing style, and much more.
Don’t use the same cover letter template for each company. Make it personal, show them you care.
For your convenience, we have gathered our years of expertise in a number of useful articles that will help you with your cover letter .
- Cover Letter Guides
Sales Director Interview Questions and Answers
What Are You Passionate About: Best Interview Answers
What Is The Best Definition Of A Functional Resume
How to Show Security Clearance on Resume
How To Answer The, "Do You Have Any Questions For Me?" Interview Question
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The Purpose of a Cover Letter: 5 Advantages of Sending One With Your Resume
The purpose of a cover letter is to show the company why you’re the best person to hire. It gives you extra space in your application to share your backstory and how you have the right background for the role.
Although cover letters can help you get an interview, not everyone is convinced that it’s worth the hassle.
So, we’ll be going through the importance of a cover letter as well as the advantages candidates who send cover letters have compared to those who don’t.
What is a Cover Letter?
Cover letters are persuasive letters you send to a prospective employer. It shows why you're the right person that they should hire.
Unlike a resume, a cover letter is more personal. It’s the seasoning of your application by giving insight into your personality and going into detail about specific parts of your professional background that are most significant and relevant to the recruiter.
The Purpose of a Cover Letter and How It Helps You Secure the Job
There’s a difference between a qualified candidate and the right candidate.
A qualified candidate is someone that’s capable of getting the job done. However, the right candidate is someone that’s not only capable of getting the job done. It’s also someone with the following:
- Communication skills
- Leadership ability
Recruiters use cover letters to assess a candidate based on the points above. It also gives insight into whether the candidate aligns with the company culture.
On one hand, resumes give employers a summary of your work history. On the other hand, the best cover letters will elaborate on key details from your resume to give the reader an idea of your personality and how you operate in the corporate world.
For example, on your resume you might’ve mentioned that you achieved X and Y results. So in your cover letter, write about the entire process from start to finish on how you achieved X and Y results.
How the Purpose of a Cover Letter Differs From a Resume
Your resume answers the “how”. See it as the tip of the iceberg. In contrast, your cover letter is what’s beneath the iceberg – it answers the “why”. A resume describes your work history whereas the cover letter explains it by taking a closer look into your skills, work experience, and qualifications.
While resumes and cover letters serve different purposes, the former is the primary form of a job application. But, the latter gives employers a better understanding of your work background.
5 Advantages of Sending Good Cover Letters Compared to Sending No Cover Letters
All advantages add up to one thing – improving your chances of an interview by helping you stand out.
To give you a better idea of how impactful cover letters are, let’s look at a quick scenario.
Imagine you’re the CEO of a small business looking to hire a new photographer.
Two resumes get your attention. Person A has a cover letter whereas Person B doesn’t. In Person A’s cover letter, you learn that they’re passionate about portrait photography and that they’re a people person with a knack for getting smiles and making clients happy.
Now, you have insight into Person A’s personality compared to Person B simply because of a cover letter. And at first glance, Person A may look like the better fit for the role. This is what helps them get their name on the interview list.
1. Mention What You Couldn’t on Your Resume
Here’s some examples of what can be included on a cover letter that’s not usually on a resume:
- Mutual connections
- Personal experiences
- Fields of interest
- Company culture
Even though some of the above can be put on a resume, it can’t go in-depth into each aspect. For example, you could list your areas of interest and expertise on a resume. But, you wouldn’t be able to explain the story behind it unless you use a cover letter.
2. Close the Gaps in Your Resume
Don’t have years of experience to talk about? No problem, use a cover letter to highlight your background in other areas such as:
- Teamwork skills
- Growth mindset
- Project achievements
Cover letters are especially useful to those with little to no work experience . There are other things to put on the spotlight that demonstrate your potential. This also applies to those making a significant career change as you can focus on how you developed transferable skills and how you came to your decision.
3. Match the Company Culture
Cover letters highlight specific parts of your background that show you align with the company’s core values.
Employers like to see when candidates have done their research. It hints at your work ethic and motivation by going beyond the resume to tailor your application. All of which play a part in determining whether or not you’d be a good addition to the team.
Although cover letters aren’t necessary , this is one factor that recruiters use for making a decision.
4. Show That You Have a Genuine Interest in the Profession
Companies like to select those with a genuine interest in the profession. Not those who are motivated only because of the salary.
Your resume focuses on describing your skills and experience. In contrast, you write a cover letter to discuss a particular aspect of your career to give recruiters an understanding of how you approach and solve a problem.
The ideal candidate is also someone that brings a positive influence on the company culture.
5. Double Down on Soft Skills
Resumes portray your technical skills whereas cover letters portray your character.
Both hard skills and soft skills are a must-have. Otherwise, you won’t be able to keep performing to the best of your ability.
The reason soft skills are impressive is that it’s developed through personal experience. While they can be implied through your resume, use a cover letter to expand on your point. For instance, share how you developed trust with stakeholders.
However, an Awful Cover Letter Will Make You Look Bad
Well, now you know the importance of a cover letter. So if you’re convinced enough to send one, make sure it’s good.
Double-check your application to prevent cover letter mistakes such as:
- Not adding any new information
- Going over 350 words
- Spelling and grammar errors
Rushing a cover letter won’t fulfill its purpose because it won’t be tailored for the company you’re interested in .
Then again, it’s another commitment. You’ve just been through war with creating your resume…
The effort is worth it but it doesn’t have to take hours. We’ll show you how to create a personalized cover letter without having to write a single word.
Don’t Want to Spend Hours on Your Cover Letter? An AI Writer Only Takes 1 Minute
Rezi’s AI writer does the hard work for you by taking details from your work background and the job you’re applying for to create a cover letter. In fact, the whole process takes less than 1 minute.
Here’s how it works:
- Enter the company name.
- Write the job position/title you’re applying for.
- Select a previous job position/title to highlight.
- Press “AI Writer Ready”.
It’s pretty straightforward.
No more back-and-forth research or hopping between the company’s website about page and job description.
Sign up here to get started for free.
Or click the video below to see Rezi’s AI cover letter generator in action.
Cover Letters Are Still Important
Cover letters are far from dying. Hiring managers still use them to make a decision.
Use it to explain your competitive advantages and how they would make you a valuable asset. Moreover, use Rezi to simplify the process so you have more time to prepare yourself for the interview.
What are you waiting for? Create your cover letter now using Rezi’s AI feature for free by clicking below!
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Key Elements of a Cover Letter
The cover letter is usually the first item an employer reads from you. Your letter should immediately indicate what position you are applying for and then give information that demonstrates why you should be considered for the position. Do not repeat all of the information contained in your resume. Instead, highlight or elaborate on resume items that are directly applicable to the position for which you are applying. The following information should be included in your cover letter.
Information about you
Begin your cover letter with your contact information. It should be in block style, on the left margin of your paper, towards the top. Name Current home address Telephone number
Include a date as you would do with any business letter.
Contact Person's Name, Title, Employer, and Address
Including a specific name can get your letter and resume to the hiring manager more quickly and can be an effective personal touch. If you are applying for an advertised position that does not give a name to contact, call the company and ask for the department manager's name.
Choose the appropriate way to address the contact person. For example: Dear Mr. Johns (if a man's name is the contact) Dear Ms. Smith (if a woman's name is the contact) Dear Prospective Employer (if there is no contact name)
In the opening paragraph tell how you learned about the position. You may, for example, know of a job through: a classified advertisement an unsolicited mailing the Internet personal referrals
This paragraph gives a summary of your background and critical skills (hard skills) that make you qualified for the position.
Second Middle Paragraph
This paragraph can be used to demonstrate your persuasive skills (soft skills).
Contact Information and Closing
At the end of the letter talk about your availability for the job, where you can be contacted, and when you are going to contact the hiring person for an appointment to discuss your application. If you have no contact name you may simply want to indicate your anticipation for a response in this part of the letter. Thank the person to whom you are writing for his/her time and consideration of your application.
Paper and Printing
- Use white or ivory (20-25 lb.), 8 ½ x 11 bond paper printed on one side only.
- Use the same paper for resume, cover letter, and envelopes if possible.
- Make sure that there is no shadowing or dirty marks from your printer on the papers.
- Follow instructions in employment ads or recruitment directions.
- Proofread! Look for spelling and formatting errors. Make sure recipient's name, company name, and title are correctly spelled in the letter and on the envelope.
- Proofread again!
- Have another person proofread your letter and resume.
- Be sure there are no errors of fact.
- Sign in blue or black ink.
- Keep a copy of the cover letter and resume for your records.
- Follow up with a phone call, about five days after expected delivery.
Layout and Design
- Follow standard cover letter format.
- Keep the cover letter to one page.
- Set margins at 1 ½”.
- Use a simple, easy to read font style, 10-14 point. (Times, Courier, or Helvetica)
- Use boldface, italics, all-caps and underlining, but don't overdo it.
Planning and Tone
- Tailor each cover letter to one specific position.
- Use industry jargon specific to your career field.
- Identify the employer's key words and use them.
- Make all statements positive. Check the tone by asking yourself if each sentence leaves a positive impression.
- Show originality but not cuteness.
- Use action verbs and phrases .
- Sound determined and confident not desperate.
- Organize context in a reasonable and logical order.
- Use correct grammar.
- Keep sentences short.
- Keep paragraphs short.
- Use short words and simple language.
- Make every word count.
- Punctuate using commas, dashes, and periods.
- Focus on the employer's need for a worker, rather than your need for a job.
- Tell how your skills and personal qualities match the employer's needs.
- Focus on what you can do for the employer and how you contribute to the organization.
- Show you have researched the company double check those facts.
- Be specific avoid general statements.
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How to Write a Cover Letter
Advice for tackling one of the toughest parts of the job-hunting process.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the job application process is writing an effective cover letter. And yes, you should send one. Even if only one in two cover letters gets read, that’s still a 50% chance that including one could help you. Before you start writing, find out more about the company and the specific job you want. Next, catch the attention of the hiring manager or recruiter with a strong opening line. If you have a personal connection with the company or someone who works there, mention it in the first sentence or two, and try to address your letter to someone directly. Hiring managers are looking for people who can help them solve problems, so show that you know what the company does and some of the challenges it faces. Then explain how your experience has equipped you to meet those needs. If the online application doesn’t allow you to submit a cover letter, use the format you’re given to demonstrate your ability to do the job and your enthusiasm for the role.
No one likes job hunting. Scouring through online job listings, spiffing up your résumé , prepping for grueling interviews — none of it is fun. For many, the most challenging part of the process is writing an effective cover letter. There’s so much conflicting advice out there, it’s hard to know where to start. Do you even need one, especially if you’re applying through an online system?
- Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, cohost of the Women at Work podcast , and the author of two books: Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) and the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict . She writes and speaks about workplace dynamics. Watch her TEDx talk on conflict and follow her on LinkedIn . amyegallo