Writing a Cover Letter

A cover letter is your chance to make a good first impression with a potential employer and it is arguably more important than a resume. Resumes are ultimately impersonal listings of experiences, education and achievements. Your cover letter allows you to tell a compelling story that provides a personal, relatable context for your resume. It allows you to make yourself stand out from the crowd of applicants, it provides you with the chance to convince a potential employer to read your resume and it lets you explain how your experiences match the opening to which you are applying to.

As a preliminary step to writing a resume cover letter, you should make sure that you have carefully read the job description. Highlight qualifications and tasks that relate to your profile and make sure that, if there are any gaps in your resume, you can fill them in via your cover letter.

It is also important to research the company which you are applying to and, if possible, the hiring manager who will be reviewing your resume. Your cover letter is your first chance to express how your profile matches up with that of the organization and make a personal connection with the hiring manager.

Your cover letter should be formatted clearly and professionally. Most cover letters are sent electronically. If they are sent as an attachment, you should format them as you would format professional correspondence.  If they are sent in the body of an email, heading elements can be left out, as they may look odd.

The first paragraph should identify the position you are applying to. More importantly, it should grab the hiring recruiter’s attention and make it clear that you are a serious candidate for the position.

In your main paragraph, you should emphasize how your skills match the requirements of the position. Include elements about the company you are applying to. This will not only make it clear that you are serious about the job and not sending out a form letter, but it will also make it easier for you to show how you can help the organization in reaching its goals.

The last paragraph should accomplish four main tasks. You should direct the employer to your resume, ask for an interview, indicate a time period during which you will get in touch with them and express your appreciation to them for their time and consideration.

Once you have written your letter, do not forget to proofread it. Grammatical and spelling errors should be avoided at all costs. Delete colloquialisms and contractions. Your cover letter should be less than a page long. Be succinct and clear; do not provide too many details. At the same time, make sure that your language is specific rather than vague. Tell the reader exactly what experiences you have had that make you a great candidate for the position, not just that you have experience.

Ensure that your cover letter looks professional, and, if possible, matches your resume. Use a simple, clean font. If you are sending a physical letter rather than an electronic one, use the same quality of paper as your resume. If you are sending an electronic document, use the recommended file format.


Gail Esparan