You could write the best resume in the world and be highly qualified for a job, but if your cover letter is poorly written, generic, or misguided, you can pretty much throw your chances out the window. The cover letter is your first, and sometimes your only opportunity to grab an employer's attention and let them know why your resume is worth reading. Since there are many different ways to write a cover letter, depending on the employer and the method of transmission, for example, here are some ways to make yours stand out along with some examples you can tweak to your liking.
Before Writing the Letter
While Writing the Letter
Cover Letter Exercise
Answer the following questions, then use each answer in the corresponding spot of the sample cover letter:
As a (2) with (3), I am eager to contribute my abilities and experience to (4). Given my (5), I believe I can help (employer name) achieve its mission and goals as a (position).
I would like to continue contributing my abilities and experiences to (employer name) and would be happy to discuss in further detail how I can accomplish this. My resume is enclosed for your convenience. Feel free to contact me at (phone number and/or e-mail address). I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.
(In this space sign your name)
(Your name printed after four spaces)
- A good cover letter should not sound like a re-hash of your resume. It should pull highlights from your resume and tie it gracefully with the job description. Consider it a bridge between your resume and the position you're seeking.
- Make your cover letter visually appealing and coordinated with your resume. Use the same personal information block in the heading of your cover letter and your resume. A cohesive resume package is a very attractive selling point. If using paper (i.e., not online), use the same high quality paper for the cover letter as for your resume.
- At the same time, do not overdo the style elements. One type font is never wrong (especially if you are in the arts and applying for a job that requires a resume). Choose a font that is simple but elegant. Avoid uncommon decorative fonts unless you are applying for a job where being quirky is of greater value than being businesslike AND the people who are doing the hiring are on board with this philosophy.
- Be concise. Never use two words when one will do (avoid verbosity). Always strike the word "very" and eliminate the word "that" as much as you can.
- The more unconventional the employer, the more leeway for creativity you have in writing a cover letter.
- You should use a different cover letter for every job application. It must be specific to the exact role that you are applying for.
- Always request an interview, and be ready for one.
- Think about how you'll answer the question "tell me about yourself." The interviewer doesn't really want you to go back to grade school and talk about your childhood. This is a specific question with a specific answer...in two minutes or so, the interviewer wants to get you to relax and loosen out your vocal cords, understand your background, your accomplishments, why you want to work at XYZ company and what your future goals are.
- When thinking of accomplishments, describe problems you've encountered in the past and how you handled them. They'll basically want to know how you'll perform when faced with obstacles in the position you're interviewing for. Be able to give honest, detailed examples from your past.
- When researching the company, don't just do an Internet search, memorize their mission, and be done with it. If it's a retail company, visit a few of their stores, observe the customers, and even strike up a few conversations. Talk to existing employees--ask them what it's like working there, how long the position has been open, and what you can do to increase your chances of getting it. Become familiar with the history of the company. Who started it? Where? Who runs it now? Be creative, and do whatever you think the other candidates don't have the guts to do.
- This is not your autobiography. Keep it well under a page.
- Avoid generic, empty language ("I will bring a depth of experience," or, "I believe my qualifications and experience suit the demands of the position"). Be specific and concrete about what you can bring to the position.
- If you're doing a thorough job search, you will get rejected sometimes. If you're not getting rejected, you're not putting yourself out there enough. And if you don't learn to see rejection as a chance to improve your approach, then you'll have a very difficult time getting a job.