While cover letters are not always required, many hiring managers still rely on them to gauge an applicant’s skills, experience and background. The key to writing an effective cover letter is to clearly show how your professional experience fits the needs of the open role and the culture of the hiring company.
In this article, we explain how to write a cover letter that makes a great first impression on potential employers.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter, also known as an application letter, is a three- to four-paragraph memo to employers explaining your interest in the job and company and your fitness for the role. It’s typically submitted along with your resume in a job application. This letter should highlight your skills, experience and achievements concerning the position you seek. Unlike your resume, cover letters allow you to go into more detail about your professional career and explain why you’re a good fit for the role and company.
A well-written cover letter has the potential to impress employers and set you apart from other applicants. To avoid a generic cover letter, you should conduct in-depth research on the company and role for which you’re applying to in-depth before writing your cover letter.
What to consider before you write
Before you craft your cover letter, gather all the information you may need. Here are some things to consider before you write a cover letter:
Think about your experiences and how you would like to relate these experiences to a hiring employer. What talents, skills or accomplishments would you like the company to know?
Think about how you learned about the job opportunity. If it’s a personal contact, jot down the person’s name and title. If it was an ad or job board, write down where and when you saw it and list any specific instructions noted in the job description.
Think about the company you’re writing to and what drew you to it. Do you admire its culture or brand? Are its reviews positive or negative? Research the company to see if you agree with its mission statement and vision.
Think about who you are writing to. If it’s a specific person, address them by name and title. If not, consider addressing the cover letter to “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources.”
Your cover letter is your chance to share your story, personality and strengths. Don’t forego a cover letter in your rush to submit an application. Taking time to write a cover letter is an indication that you’re interested in the position and organization and are willing to go above and beyond for a great opportunity.
Cover letter format
A cover letter should be formatted like a business letter with these sections:
Header with date and contact information
Salutation or greeting
Letter ending and signature
Your cover letter should be one page long and use a simple, professional font, such as Arial or Helvetica, 10 to 12 points in size. Your letter should be left-aligned with single spacing and one-inch margins.