I had no idea what a cover letter was until about a month into my first semester of college when I went to apply to be an orientation leader. Then I was scrambling trying to figure out what it was to meet the application deadline. Oops.
I want to save you the trouble of Googling the crap out of “how to write a cover letter,” and sorting through the thousands of articles that pop up so today I’m breaking it down fast and simple for you!
If you aren’t sure what a cover letter is, it’s basically a letter to a company that you send along with your resume. Usually, it’s read first, hence the term “cover” letter. Since it is the first thing companies read, it’s important to make sure your letter stands out and makes the employer want to look at your resume.
Cover letters are super simple to write, I promise. They follow a simple three or four paragraph format, which I’m going to break down for you right now! (Stay until the end and I’ll even share a cover letter template with you!)
First off, you need to include your address in the top left hand corner of the letter. This is important because it allows the employer to know whether you live close to the job you are applying for. It also allows them a way to contact you (should your email or phone just decide to stop working randomly).
Directly beneath your address, type out the date that you plan on sending/delivering your cover letter.
Leaving two lines of space after the date, you can also include the address of the employer. However, this is usually only done if you know the specific person to whom the letter will be addressed.
If you are applying for a job on campus, and you live on campus, I would use your dorm address rather than your actual permanent address. That way the employer knows you live as close as possible, and therefore will find it easier to get to work.
Addressing the Letter
Of course, if you know the name of who the cover letter is going to then put their name here, but most of the time you aren’t going to know exactly who you’re writing to. This means you’ll more than likely be using a generic title to address the letter. I usually use “Hiring Manager” unless the job description says otherwise. Another popular title is “Human Resources Manager.” Just never use “To Whom This May Concern.” That’s too informal and groups you with the rest of the people applying – which is what you’re trying to avoid.
Also, instead of using a comma like you would in a letter to a friend, you want to put a colon. Like so:
In this paragraph, you want to share your interest for the job, along with what that job position is, as well as how you heard about that position. This should only take you two to three sentences.
Pretty simple right?
Now comes the juicy part of the letter.
These next one or two paragraphs are where you really want to draw the reader in and show how qualified for the job you are. To do so, you should draw from your resume and elaborate on a specific skill or past job to highlight your competence in the field you are applying for.
This can be a tad bit difficult when you are applying for a job nowhere near anything you’ve done before. But don’t fear! There are ways to still have something of substance to talk about in your cover letter.
Here I’m not drawing on actual experiences of mine, but my passions in life that relate to the job I’m applying for. It shows the employer how much you want the job and how hard you’ll be willing to work to get hired and keep the position.
This is your last chance to make an impression, but like the intro paragraph, it’s super concise! Be sure to nail into them that you’re really interested in the position! (Even if you have to say just that!) Then, you want to provide your preferred method of contact (usually email) and thank them for taking the time to read your letter.
Last but not least, you gotta leave that John Hancock so they don’t forget whose amazing cover letter they just read! Now remember, now is not the time to get all buddy buddy or clever, so stick with the usual sign off of “sincerely” and you’ll do great! Just be sure to leave two lines then type your name. The space is there for a real signature, should you have to print the cover letter out to hand over in person. You could also create a digital signature, but I just haven’t gotten around to that yet!
And now you’re done! How simple was that?
Cover Letter Impact
Considering how little time writing cover letters take, it’s amazing the impact they can have on your chance at getting your dream job. I mean think about it, if you were the hiring manager of a company, who would you rather consider for employment: the person who just submitted a resume or the person who submitted a cover letter tailored to the position and their resume? (The correct answer is the second option.)
I’ve got some real world experience to back this up too. I’ve applied to a lot of jobs in the past couple of months, but I really only ever heard back from employers to whom I had submitted a cover letter as well as a resume. Even though nine times out of ten, they didn’t even ask for one. I swear they’re the main reason I get called into interviews.
Taking the initiative, and time, to craft a perfectly written cover letter shows the hiring manager how dedicated you are to get that position.
If you’ve made it this far you’re probably like, “Okay Caitlyn, where’s that free template and sample letter you promised me?” Well, wait no longer because you’ve just hit the jackpot!
Just click the image above to download your template now and start writing some brilliant cover letters of your own! (It pays to stay until the end, am I right?)
When did you find out what a cover letter was? Have you ever written one? Let me know in the comments below!