A cover letter is small text saying who you are and why you are writing, followed by a sales pitch of what you have to offer and then a closing in which you propose steps for further action. These three components often amount to three
or four paragraphs, but there are no hard and fast rules about exactly how you break up the information.
The key objectives of a cover letter are to:
If you think you don’t need to put much effort writing a cover letter, or don’t need to send them at all because nobody reads them, think again.
True, human resources recruiters, headhunters and department heads don’t have time to read both the letter and resume. So they skip right to the resume. Others are so tired of boring letters saying the same old thing that
they simply don’t bother to read them. As a result, some job search coaches will tell you, “Oh, just write a few sentences and don’t fuss over the letter too much. It won’t get read anyway.” Well, for every person who says the
cover letter is not important you’ll find another who says it is. Many prospective employers view the cover letter as a way of getting their first impression of you.
The cover letter reveals:
To make the best first impression, you need to know exactly what a cover letter is and to put some thought into it before you start writing. You also need to understand what to include — and not to include — and to be aware of some
cardinal rules of cover letter writing.
If you find yourself struck by writer’s block at about the “Dear Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So” point, then you probably need to take a step back and put some more thought into your cover letter before diving into it.
Asking yourself the following five questions will help you build a foundation for your letter and will make the actual writing go much more smoothly.
This is where you tell employers who you are, why you’re writing and how you heard about the organization or the specific opening. The “who you are” part is a brief introduction of yourself. Just
mention the basic facts about you and your situation, choosing the ones that will be most relevant to the employer. The “why you are writing” part is where you mention which position you are applying for, or what your job objective
is if no specific opening has been advertised. Then be sure to tell them how you heard about the organization.
The sales pitch
The objective of this part of the letter is to list the reasons why the reader should see you as a viable candidate. It’s best to start with a statement that provides an overview of your qualifications,
then go into them more specifically, using the examples you identified before you started writing.
It’s where you flatter the reader a bit by commenting on something positive about the organization and letting them know why you would want to work there.
The request for further action
The closing paragraph isn’t just about thanking the reader for taking the time to read your letter or for considering you as a candidate for a job. It’s also about where to go
from here, about opening the door to further contact. It’s where you suggest how to proceed, usually by saying that you will call or email the reader to follow up and see if a meeting can be arranged. The important thing is to
end the letter in an assertive, but courteous, way by taking the initiative to follow up.
This has proved to be a difficult, yet very challenging and very rewarding process.