Creating a cover letter - do I need one?

Elyssa Duncan
Community Specialist
May 12, 2020
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You may have seen a spot on your #application where you can attach a cover letter. Many companies make this "optional," but what they are really saying is we want a cover letter, please!

You might be curious if you can get by with just a resume, especially if the company doesn't require it, but don't be fooled. It may be an extra step, but in many cases, a cover letter can drastically help your chances of getting hired!

What Is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a one-page letter that introduces a job seeker's work experience, skills, and personal interest in applying for a job. Hiring managers use this in conjunction with a resume to screen applicants.

Why Do I Need One?

Cover letters are an excellent opportunity to provide detailed information on why you are a great candidate for the job. It should not be a repeat of what is on your resume! Instead, use this tool as a way to include specific examples; think of it as your own personal sales pitch.

This could be a great chance to:

  • Explain lengthy gaps in employment
  • Expand on details of an accomplishment/project mentioned in your resume
  • Add some personality to your application

The Basic Elements of a Cover Letter

There are usually 7 essential parts of a cover letter.

1. Header

This is where you include your contact information. It should start with your name and include a professional sounding email address, phone number and location. You may also want to link portfolios or social media if applicable.

2. Greeting

The salutation or greeting of your letter is the time to make a great first impression! Choose the appropriate way to address the hiring manager. Whenever possible, use their name. You can usually find this information on the job listing or company website.

BAD: To Whom It May Concern
GOOD: Dear Hiring Manager
BEST: Dear Mr. Smith

3. Opening paragraph (Intro)

This paragraph should provide the hiring manager with basic details about you - who you are, why you want the job, etc. Make sure to include:

  • The specific title of the job you are applying for
  • A general overview of why you'd be successful at the position
  • A few reasons why you're excited to apply

You can also mention how you heard about the opening and why you wanted to apply. This is great to include if you were referred to the company. This paragraph should show off some personality and grab the attention of the reader!

Expert tip: Always review the job posting for keywords and specific qualifications required for the job so that you can include them in your introductory paragraph!

4. Second paragraph (Hook)

This is the STAR of your letter as it highlights your past history and accomplishments. Use examples of how they directly relate to the job you're applying for. Do your best to draw on critical skills from your resume, but don't copy it directly. Include stories and examples of successful projects and how you've impacted others.

5. Third paragraph (Values, goals + company research)

Time to demonstrate your understanding of the company's mission! Focus on how your personal goals align with the employer's and connect to things you love about the company culture and values.

Explain how you can contribute to their success and how your contributions will be mutually beneficial to your future and the needs of the prospective employer.

6. Closing (Call to action)

This final paragraph should summarize your enthusiasm for the role and ask for the next steps of the application process. What would you like to happen next?

For example, you could say, "I have attached my resume for your consideration. I look forward to an opportunity to meet with you in person and discuss how my skills could contribute to the company's success." Thank the hiring manager for their time and express your interest in speaking with them further.

7. Signature

End with a professional sign-off. Some appropriate closing statements include:

  • Best,
  • Sincerely,
  • Thank you,
  • With gratitude,
  • Best regards,

Cover Letter Tips

  • Customize for each application

    A cover letter should be specific to the job at hand! Personalize it for each application, even if it means a little bit more work! You don't have to completely reinvent the wheel every time, but try to use specific language directly from the job description. Include keywords from the listing and highlight relevant experience and how it pertains to the role.

  • Format your letter properly

    Of course, having the correct information is important, but how it is presented is also crucial! Keep it to one page, and remember that white space is good for the eye. Adjust your margins if needed, but don't make them too small, or the page will look cramped.

Expert tip: Keep it SIMPLE. Always use professional, easy-to-read fonts and leave out images. Now is not the time for fuchsia-colored, comic-sans. Remember, this is a cover letter, not a lemonade stand :)

  • Proofread

    Hiring managers look at hundreds of applications. Don't let a silly spelling error hurt your chances of an #interview! Thoroughly proofread your cover letter before submitting it. Free sites like Grammarly are great for this.

  • Don't make it too long

    When you have a lot to say, it can be tough to keep it short, but remember that sticking to the point is essential. Don't add too much and stick to 3 - 5 sentences per paragraph so you can avoid overwhelming the reader!


What are YOUR cover letter tips and tricks??


Want more tips to help with your job search? Check out these topics!

#jobsearch #applicationblackhole #firstjob #resume #careerdiscovery

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Margie Vergara
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Thanks for the advice on writing a simple cover letter. What I have learned is to avoid writing long paragraphs. Only write 3-5 sentences per paragraph or you'll lose the reader's interest.

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