How to write a cover letter
A cover letter, is also known as a motivational letter or a letter of motivation. But the real question is, what is a cover letter? It is aptly named, because it provides an opportunity for you to show your motivation for applying to the particular job.
It is a document accompanied with your resume, to provide additional information about yourself, and it is used in the screening process to shortlist whom to interview.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to get the cover letter right!
The space in a resume is only limited, and bound by the constraint of the format and template. But a cover letter helps you make up for that.
Things to include in a cover letter are usually one or more of the following:
- Why you are interested in this organisation?
- What is the most relevant experience or qualification that makes you the most suitable for this job?
- Any additional information that you’d like to share, that you feel is beneficial to your purpose?
A cover letter for resume normally falls into one of the following categories:
- Application letter is one which aids you in applying for a specific job opening.
- A letter of interest, which expresses your interest in working in a specific organisation, and also inquires about any further job openings that you can take advantage of.
- A value proposition sets forth the uniqueness of the candidate as compared to others in the pool and relates what they can bring to the table.
- A referral cover letter mentions the person who referred you to the job, amongst other things.
- A networking letter is one that you can use to seek job advice and assistance from experienced organisations. It also increases your contacts.
A job cover letter will also vary depending on whether you are applying for a single job or multiple jobs at the same place, or if the job was not advertised, but rather referred to you by someone within the organisation.
Some of the best cover letters out there are targeted for the job to which you are applying.
Amongst the many cover letter tips that are offered to bring focus on your potential and increase your chances of being appealing enough to be granted an interview, we offer the following valuable tips, which have been tested (and worked) many times:
1) The salutation: it is of most importance to have a personalised salutation. After all, our main purpose of sending a cover letter is to make us sound more personable than the resume makes us appear. ‘To whom it may concern’ should only be a last resort when addressing a letter.
If you aren’t provided with a contact name, it is best to address the letter to the “hiring manager”, however, if you don’t happen to know that, you can refer to as ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or ‘Dear Recruitment Team’ or ‘Dear XYZ Company Team’.
It all depends on how much you know about the company, and what information you have been provided with.
2) If your cover letter is going to be an email, you will focus on what job you are applying for, and how you found it.
However, if you are submitting a hard copy, you can do one of the two things: good cover letters state what position you are applying for and also how you found it, especially if you learned about it through a recruiting company, or from someone within the organisation (this increases your networking).
In the case of writing a letter of interest, you will also mention why you want to work in that particular organisation, and that orgnaisation only.
3) The main portion or the body of the letter should be all about you. But don’t overdo it so much as to make the Hiring Manager take a tired sigh through the middle of the letter.
In one or two paragraphs, you are encouraged to cover why you are qualified for the job, what relevant work experience you have that will aid you in the future, and most importantly, what you know and why you want to work for this company.
If you are intending to write a cover letter for job prospecting purposes (letter of interest) you will need to tell them what you will contribute to them.
You should thoroughly research the company’s mission, customer base, the highlights of its performance and business etc. and then align your qualifications to this information.
4) Lastly, when you wrap up in one final, small paragraph, you just need t go through your suitability, provide contact details, mention that you look forward to meeting the person and offer a note of thanks.
Again, too much wordiness, and you’ll forever lose your chances of saying the thanks in person. Good paper cover letters for job also include a positive statement, like how you will be a great asset for the team, ask them to go through your resume, express your interest in meeting them, and finally thank them for their time.
After signing off, you may add your signatures, and add a list of the enclosures right at the end (example: resume or references).
Other factors to consider when thinking of how to write a cover letter for a resume in hard copy is to focus on the formatting and layout element also, not just the content.
When you go through ‘how to write a cover letter’ examples there is one piece of advice that the experts always give. It is to spell check, avoid slang language, and be very careful about the punctuation.
Great cover letters are always reviewed by friends, family and peers who offer constructive criticism to you, and may also remind you of accomplishments that you’ve either forgotten, or you think are not worth mentioning or relevant.
When writing a good cover letter it is very important to exude confidence and ownership of your work. For example, instead of saying, ‘this gave me the chance’ you can say ‘I developed these skills through being given this opportunity’.
By saying it this way, it shows more ownership and control over what you have been doing. Reading it aloud also gives you a better idea of what it sounds like.
Finally, before you start writing your employment cover letter you should ask yourself if you have satisfactory answers to the following questions, as they will help you in the long run:
- What is the company’s full name? XYZ Corporation or XYZ Corporation Pvt. Ltd.
- Do you know the complete title of the job and reference number? It will be a big put off for the HR team if you mess up the name of the job or the reference number, and they spend hours on end trying to determine what role you have actually applied for.
- Any type of skills that you are not able to utilise in your current job, but which would be used in your next job.
- Any particular knowledge or expertise with which you can help the company succeed.
What is the best cover letter format?
The best cover letter format as explained above, starts with your contact (in header), the employer’s contact, salutation, three to four paragraphs as explained above, closing, and hand written or typed signature.
In the case of sending an email, be sure to add the subject line (usually the job title and/or reference number is a good idea).
Other tips included in cover letter templates include the use of a basic font, like Times New Roman or Arial, which is easier to read on screen, and is compatible with many application tracking systems also.
Have some space between your paragraphs. It is also good to have the font type on your cover letter match that in your resume.
Good cover letters template typically encourage you to write a new one for every job rather than developing a single run of the mill type letter that you end up sending to every potential employer of yours.
- Try adding a letterhead at the top of the page with your full name, address, telephone and email address in it. The name should be bigger, say size 14 or 16, while the rest of the content is in size 12. Also add a line below, for separation from the general text.
- The person should be addressed by name, address, and then the date. It doesn’t matter whether the date comes before or after.
- Margins should be set to one inch.
- Single spacing should be used between lines.
- Text should be justified.
- The paper should be of the standard 8.5” by 11” size.
- The content should be black in colour.
How to write a basic cover letter?
As mentioned earlier, a basic cover letter is very simple to create for those who know what they’ve been doing works-wise to date, and where they want to proceed in the future.
When writing cover letters, you will have to include all of the following:
- Your contact details
- Employers contact
- The reference to what you are applying for, and how you discovered it
- What are you currently doing
- What skills you can bring to this job
- Why you are interested in the company
- Talk of the future, like how you would love to meet them in person, and they can contact you anytime on your contact etc. to arrange an interview.
There is no hard and fast rule in cover letter writing but it is very important to include the basics. For example, instead of skills you can add, talk about which experience is most relevant to the job.
When writing about your current job, you can add what you want to explore in the future, and how the job application will give you that opportunity to rediscover yourself, or reapply some skills.
All of this depends on your particular situation and what you think you can do differently. We have talked about what you should include in your cover letter.
However, there are a few things that you should NOT include in your cover.
- Resume: remember that there is a reason why you have a separate document called a cover letter; there is no point if you put your whole resume here. Only target those facts which you really think would contribute towards winning this job.
- You should certainly not mention what other jobs you are looking for. Even if you are unemployed, don’t say that you have applied to so many places. Just highlight your interest in this particular organisation.
- Don’t use ‘I’ too much. Though active voice is preferred as compared to passive, it is still better to be more balanced.
- Grammatical errors and typos are a big no-no. So make sure to have it spell checked, as well as proofread by friends, family, colleagues etc
Some of the Best Cover Letter Examples
There are some very good cover letter examples available for people who are new to writing one, and also for those who need a refresher.
The Monash University has a good resource of a sample cover letter along with instructions on how to come up with your cover letter. You can also have feedback from them on your cover letter.
They advise the following structure as being a good example of a cover letter:
- Contact details.
- Paragraph saying how you found the job, job title etc.
- Why you want the job? How your career plans align with having this job?
- Your specialist skills.
- Your general skills that may come handy for the job.
- Closing with resume and attachment.
This is the norm for a resume cover letter sample. Another valuable advice that I found in good cover letter samples is the use of a positive tone, confidence in oneself, and no negative emotions or dwelling on your weaknesses.
A typical job application cover letter sample emphasises use of shorter and concise sentences as opposed to long, chunky blocks of text.
There should be some sort of statement about what you are going to do next: ‘I look forward to meeting you’ or ‘you can contact me on my mobile number 0412 345 678 to arrange a meeting’ – this is a good way to show you are interested.
You can also visit the website of Kelly Services, who provides a succinct cover letter that adequately includes all the basics.
They have provided a covering letter sample for an individual seeking an internship, so it would be more accessible for recent graduates or college goers writing this letter for the first time.
There is also a guideline for writing your resume, and complementing your cover letter along with your resume.
There are also some excellent examples of cover letters available from the website of Youth Central. They have some good guidelines for both people with no experience and people with some level of experience.
So it will give you a good point of view from both angles. They have also included a very detailed explanation of the purpose of the cover letter, tips for customising, and what to include as well as what not to.
For other templates you can visit this website:
They have given a very good template for a cover letter, and have also included a sample job advertisement so that you can better relate with this resume cover letter example on how to write the letter to a particular type of job.
What is different about their cover is that each paragraph is also preceded by a heading, which is also a good idea in order to give a gist of what you are going to say next.
You can also use the example of cover letter from the website of the University of Western Sydney. Their example cover letters are suited to whether you are writing the standard cover letter or a speculative one, which is especially useful when sending resumes to small businesses or unadvertised jobs that you found out about through another source.
You can have some samples of cover letters from the website: . Their sample cover letters for different types of jobs show why the letter is a good one and what its winning points are. Their covering letter example ranges from the senior to mid level jobs, as well as internships and the like.
To wrap up, a cover letter is a more customised summary of why you think you should have this job, as opposed to a resume which includes all the important details.
Good cover letter examples target your special skills and experience relevant to this job. The format starts by mentioning your address, opening salutation, and what job you are applying for.
This is followed by three to four more paragraphs comprising your job experience and knowledge that makes you most suitable for this job, why you want to work in this company, and any skills that are latent that you want to explore in your next job.
A typical sample cover letter for job closes with your next action or interest in meeting the employer, and the number of attachments.
It is not really a tough job for someone who knows what their strengths are, and where they see themselves in the future.