If you’re still asking yourself what you should do after graduation, know that the job of your dreams may, in fact, be within your reach. A well-written, comprehensive resume is the first step in getting there. (Consider using a professional resume writing service to help craft a winning one!) However, a good cover letter is just as important—perhaps moreso, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience to put on a resume. The cover letter shows off your personality and makes employers curious to know more about you. It allows you to expand on points in your resume that pertain to the position of interest. With specific keywords, your cover letter matches your qualifications and shows that you’re a good candidate.
A cover letter is the first thing a potential employer sees, so you want to make a good impression. It may not be read it if it’s long or rambling, so get to the point quickly and limit yours to one page or less. It should also give a good indication of your communication and writing skills. A clear and organized cover letter that’s free of grammatical errors says a lot about the applicant—even with just a quick glance. The tone of your cover letter should be positive, friendly, and confident.
A cover letter has several specific goals:
- To introduce yourself and give the employer an idea of who you are
- To show that you have the skills and qualifications to do the job
- To provide additional information or expand on items listed on your resume
- To request a meeting or interview
Address and Letterhead
On the upper right corner of the page, put your name, address, phone number, email address, and a link to your website or LinkedIn profile. (You can also design your own letterhead to give your cover letter a more professional look.) The address of the company you are writing to goes on the left side underneath your personal information. Remember to leave space beneath this information before starting your letter.
Your resume and cover letter are best formatted in size 12 font so they’re easy to read. Also use a font that looks professional, like Calibri or Times New Roman. Leave the Comic Sans or other childish fonts for another time.
A salutation can be confusing for job applicants. Is ‘To Whom it May Concern’ or ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ correct, or is it better to include the name of someone specific? If the hiring manager’s name isn’t mentioned in the job posting, make the effort to find out what it is. If possible, also use the person’s correct title, i.e. Ms., Dr., or Mr. Look for this information on the organization’s official website, LinkedIn profile, or simply call the company and ask for the person’s name and official title. If you don’t address the employer correctly, your cover letter could seem like a form letter instead. A proper salutation will show that you are someone who takes the initiative (and it could be a positive point in your favour).
The goal of the first paragraph is to express your interest in the position, so clearly state the title of the job for which you are applying. (It’s not necessary to explain where you saw the position advertised.) Then write a few sentences about why the position interests you. Make your statements brief and concise; you’ll expand on these points later in the letter.
The middle paragraph is important because this is where you’ll explain your resume in more detail. Show the reader that you match all or most of their requirements. It’s also important to know if you’ll fit in with the company, so learn about the organization and have a good understanding of who they are and what they do. Perhaps research the hiring manager (or whoever will receive your letter) as well.
Employers often match job applications to specific keywords from their ad, so use those words in your cover letter. (Keywords can be anything related to the position or its requirements.) Let your letter reflect the tone of the ad and highlight how your goals match the company’s mission.
If you think you’re well-suited for the job, you may want to add another paragraph here. Once you’ve learned about the company, you can express how you think your specific goals and experience fit in with its mission and future plans. Comment on what you think you could specifically accomplish for them in light of all this information.
The final paragraph of the cover letter should be about two to four sentences long. The purpose of this section is primarily to mention the attached resume and stress that you’re open to meeting for an interview. Phrase the final sentence or two as a call to action, such as “Please give me a call at your convenience at 555-2020 so we can set up a meeting to discuss the position further.” Finally, thank the potential employer for taking your application into consideration.
Include a closing that’s both professional and polite. (“Sincerely” or “Best Regards” are appropriate options.) After your closing, skip a few lines and then write and sign your full name. If your application is being submitted electronically, create a digital signature and add it to your letter. Use a digital writing pad or buy software that will allow you to make a digital signature stamp.
If you’ve been following this series of blogs, you now have a better idea of how to write a good resume and a strong cover letter. Remember to tailor both to the specific job you’re applying for and avoid sending out form letters. Now you’re ready to start the job hunt. Good luck!
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