Writing Your Cover Letter
Regardless of whether a company requests a cover letter as part of your application packet, you should always submit one to set yourself apart from other applicants. A cover letter is the opportunity to express your interest in, and enthusiasm for, the specific position and the organization. As such, it is imperative that your letter is tailored to the role and the company. Companies do not want to receive generic cover letters. Be intentional.
Cover letters also showcase your writing abilities. Therefore, it is crucial that your cover letters be error-free and grammatically sound.
This letter is your opportunity to highlight your relevant skills and experiences that match the position while showing your personality and introducing your story to create a first impression on employers. A strong, customized cover letter will help you explain your value proposition and stand out. It is not entirely about you, research and mention the company culture and mission so that you can match yourself to the organization. Avoid beginning every sentence with an “I” statement as it is repetitive, boring, and communicates a one-sided focus.
Retain the same header as your résumé so that they match and then use block formatting, which is left-aligning the text with double spaces between sections. Always save your cover letter and résumé as PDF files so that the formatting remains consistent. Cover letters are just as diverse as applicant pools so there isn’t one right way to develop one. That said, here is a step-by-step guide to help you create one.
Anatomy of a Cover Letter
If you have a hiring manager’s name then address the letter directly to them. Use their title if known and pronouns if you are certain of them. Otherwise, using their first and last name is always a safe bet. Where it is ideal to have a specific name to address the letter to, it can be rare to have that information. In that incident, addressing it to the hiring manager or hiring committee of the specific company (example: Dear ABC Company Hiring Manager) or the role’s hiring manager (example: Dear Market Analyst Hiring Manager) is acceptable. Do your best to make it personable, which means do NOT use “To Whom it May Concern”. Below are some suggestions for your salutations.
- Dear [First and last name],
- Dear Mr. [Last name],
- Dear Ms. [Last name],
- Dear Dr. [Last name],
- Dear Prof. [Last name],
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear HR Team,
- Dear Hiring Team,
- Dear Human Resources Manager,
- To the Marketing Department,
- Dear Customer Service Manager
- Dear Head of Design,
- Dear Company ABC Team,
Grab the employer’s attention! It is important to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position and the organization. Mention the specific job title, how you found it, and how excited you are for the opportunity to apply. If you have a connection with someone in the organization, mention their name and why their role was impactful to your decision to apply. Tell them what specifically draws you to the company and what excites you about working there.
The body of the letter can vary but above all, do NOT just summarize your résumé. These persuasive, valuable paragraphs are intended to convince the reviewer that you’re the perfect candidate for the position and the company. This is your sales pitch! It should mention you and reference the employer to establish a relationship. Some ways to approach the body of the letter include:
- Take an interesting experience listed on your résumé that matches the skills of the job, and tell the story with detail. Connect how this story will positively impact the company. If you have 2 stories to tell – add another paragraph. This one could cover academic experience as well with projects.
- Use specific examples and short stories to provide evidence of relevant skills, strengths, and accomplishments from academic, work, volunteer, and/or co-curricular experiences. Mention how the experiences you wrote about align with the job and/or will help the employer.
- Using the job description, select 3 skills the employer is looking for and communicate how you meet them. Write a sentence about the qualification and one related to how it will help them. Do this 3 times and you will have a 6 sentence paragraph.
- Tell them your personal story. For example, tell them why you chose marketing as your major and why you are excited to put your dreams into action through this opportunity.
- Use Linkedin, the organization’s website, and other social media to research the company’s mission, culture, or vision. Communicate how you are an ideal match given the experience, skills, and unique drive you have to offer in alignment with their goals.
Write a short reiteration of your excitement for the position and opportunity to apply. Offer that you look forward to meeting them for an interview or further discussion after they have reviewed your included résumé. Thank the employer for their time and consideration of your candidacy. Encourage them to contact you by any means listed above or repeat your preferred means of contact briefly.
- Font: 10 to 12 point, in the same font as your resume.
- Margins: 1 or 1.25 inches.
- Layout: Left justified, beginning no more than 2 inches from the top.
- Style: Positive language, confident but not imposing, concise with supporting detail, written in active verb voice.
- E-mail: Use body of e-mail as cover letter starting with salutation.
- Underline the verbs in the job posting to identify key skills.
Articles and other Cover Letter Resources
CDO’s Cover Letter Pinterest board
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