Writing a Cover Letter
A cover letter is a letter of introduction attached to, or accompanying another document such as your resume or curriculum vitae. Your cover letter should be written specifically for each job you apply for. When possible, you should try to find out who you're sending the letter to, and address it directly to them (e.g. Dear Mr/Ms Chris Smith). Never use a salutation like "To Whom It May Concern". If you don't know the name of the recipient of the cover letter, use 'Dear Hiring Manage', 'Dear Search Committee', etc. Any time you send a resume either by fax or postal mail, you should include a cover letter. When sending your resume via email, you don't need a cover letter. The email should explain to the recipient why you're sending them your resume.
A cover letter should use a standard business letter style for the header. The header should contain the sender's address and other information , the recipient's contact information, and the date sent. You may also include an optional reference line such as "RE: Customer Service Position at Somecompany". The final part of your header is the salutation. Here is an example:
City, State Zip Code
Month, Day, Year
Mr./Ms./Dr. FirstName LastName
Street or P. O. Box Address
City, State Zip Code
RE: Customer Service Position at Somecompany
Dear Ms. Lastname
The first paragraph should restate the position you are applying for, and how or where you heard about the job. It will really catch the hiring person's attention if they see that someone they know in the company referred this job to you. This would also be a good time to indicate why you would be a good candidate for this job or an asset to the company. Your reason should indicate how the employer will benefit from hiring you, not how you'll benefit from getting this job.
The second paragraph should mention your experience, skills and qualifications that are targetted to the job opening. This is where you sell yourself, but in a short consise paragraph. You want to entice them to go on to read your resume for the rest of your information. If you can make mention of the company and a particular need they have (new project you read about, maybe) then you're demonstrating that you're thorough and you're also demonstrating that this cover letter is specifically for them, and not a 'form letter'.
Your last paragraph should be consise and direct. Let the reader
know your intentions (an interview, an opportunity to call, etc)
and also that you will follow up with them within a specific time
period (eg. 1 week) about this position. If you are planning to
call the person on a certain day, you could close by saying, "I
will contact you next Tuesday to set up a mutually convenient time
to meet." Don't call on Mondays or Fridays if you can help it. If
you aren't comfortable calling the reader, then close your letter
with something like: "I look forward to hearing from you soon."
Remember, the purpose of a cover letter is to
- get someone's attention
- show them that you're sincerely interested in the position and have become familiar with the company
- show them your experience and qualifications
- tell them how the company will benefit by hiring you
- instigate the next steps, whether it be a call, meeting, or interview