How to Write a Cover Letter

29 May

What is a cover letter?

Well, a cover letter is a marketing tool, often sent alongside a resume, that gives you the chance to introduce yourself, explain why you are sending your resume, and provide more information about yourself. It is often your first chance to introduce yourself, and your cover letter acts a supplement to your resume where you can include more detailed information.

There are a few goals that you should keep in mind when writing a cover letter:

  • Make sure to express your interest in the position!
  • Market yourself and be persuasive!
  • Highlight key points in your resume, and try to draw the reader into reading your resume!
  • Set up an interview or further contact!

Now, if you can accomplish the above goals in your cover letter, it should help you get noticed. Your cover letter also acts as a writing sample for your potential future employer, so you want to make sure that your cover letter is not generic. Try to target it toward specific quetions or qualities related to the job. Do also make sure that your writing is concise and clear as well as grammatically and mechanically correct. Have multiple people look over your cover letter (like a tutor!) to make sure it is polished and professional!

The Steps to Writing a Cover Letter

  • Step 1: Do Research!
    • Before you sit down to write your cover letter, learn a little bit about where you are applying. You might look at websites, brochures, or pamphlets regarding the specific company or a similar company. You could also try to talk to current or past employees. Doing this research will not only help you to learn a little bit about the company, but it can also help you determine if you actually want to work there!
  • Step 2: Make a Plan!
    • Look over your research. Try to identify ways that you can separate yourself from the rest of the candidates. Takes ome time to brainstorm ideas and make a list of reasons why you are the ideal candidate for this job. Deconstruct the job description and look for keywords or requirements that you can discuss in your letter. Brainstorm ways to plug yourself into those requirements! Doing this will help you with the writing process.
  • Step 3: Write Your Letter!
    • If possible, try to address your cover letter to a specific person within the company where you are applying. This can help you to get noticed, and may even make you stand out from other applicants. Then, as you progress into the body of your cover letter, try breaking it down into different paragraphs:
      • First: Note why you are interested in the job and the employer. Make sure to grab their attention! Include a summary of your knowledge of the company or your interest in their work, if possible. Give a reason why they should consider you (and your included resume!). If someone has referred you, make sure to mention them! Then, highlight the main points that you will focus on in your letter.
      • Second: Focus on the top experience, knowledge, training, and skills that are relevant to the selection criteria and the job description. Select one or two relevant highlights to explain in more detail. Do not worry about summarizing or repeating things from your resume. Instead, emphasize your qualifications by going into detail with things that you may not have been able to cover in your resume.
      • Last: Connect the dots for your potential employer. Tell them why you are a great fit for their company, show how your skills will fit their needs, and call attention to your resume. You could also try to set up an interview in this paragraph, or end using an active ending, such as telling them you will contact them in a few days. Make sure to be genuine and thank them for their time.
  • Step 4: PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD!
    • Try to put your cover letter away for 24 hours, and then take another look at it. Once you do look over it again, try reading out loud. By giving yourself some time away from the document and reading it out loud, you are changing the material enough that your brain will not fill in the gaps or skip over things by filling it what it thinks you meant. This can help you catch any content issues as well as grammatical and mechanical errors.
    • Do also seek outside assistance. Visit the Writing Center and have a tutor look over your cover letter. Ask a friend or family member (or several)! While it can be intimidating to share such a personal and professional piece of writing with those around you, they can provide some of the best feedback and support.

Need additional help? Have a few questions? Check out our cover letter resources here or schedule an appointment in the Writing Center! 

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