Cover Letter

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What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is an official letter expressing interest in a position at a company when applying for a job. It is an integral part of the job application process. Though it usually accompanies the resume or curriculum vitae, it is not always required.  Despite this, a cover letter is a great way to give your job applications an extra boost.

The cover letter introduces the applicant and tells the recruiter why he or she is the best fit for the job. Often, the cover letter is only a page long, and it is written in a formal but pleasant tone.

Cover Letter - Sample

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Is it necessary to send a cover letter?

This question is always being debated upon but the answer is “yes”, even if the recruiter or employer didn’t specifically ask for one. It can be tempting to skip writing a cover letter because of the presence of the resume but including a cover letter can increase one’s chances of getting hired.

A resume can sometimes be rather boring, as it is purely text and bullets. The cover letter can catch the recruiter’s attention, helping the applicant take a step forward in the application process.

Basic Elements of a Cover Letter

A cover letter is like most other types of business letters, except that it contains certain parts that are not found in other letter types. A cover letter typically offers more creativity in its writing. However, it is important to remember to keep a cover letter within one page. Generally, it includes all of the following:

1. Contact Information

This is one of the most important parts of the cover letter because it contains the applicant’s contact information so that the employer can easily reach him or her. Unlike other letters like the resignation letter, your contact information can appear as a header to save space for the body of your letter.

2. Salutation

The salutation should be formal and straightforward. Whenever possible, try to find information about the hiring manager for the position. Ideally, the salutation should formally address the hiring manager. For example, one can write “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Ms. Sill.” However, if the hiring manager’s information cannot be found, it is acceptable to write “Dear Hiring Manager.”

3. Introduction

The first paragraph of your cover letter is the introduction. Use the first sentence of the introduction to hook the reader in and make them want to read the letter. Additionally, the first sentence should convey interest in the position. Some ideas to base the hook on are:

  • a past professional/educational experience that inspired your interest in the company or industry
  • a personal relation or contact that helped you develop your interest in the company or industry
  • a story relating you to the company or industry
  • a trait or something you admire about the company that sparks your desire to work there
  • a current events case that relates to the company, industry, or role to which you are applying

The rest of the introduction should focus on outlining why you are applying to the company and how your skills and experiences will help you thrive in the position to which you are applying.

4. Body of the Letter

The main body of your cover letter can be one or two paragraphs long – depending on the length of the rest of your letter. Focus on explaining how you are a good fit for the company and position. Ideally, target something mentioned in the job description and back it up with an experience listed on your resume.

Use the first paragraph of the body to talk about hard skills. Select one or two hard skills – specific tasks for the job – mentioned in the job description. Using these, explain how the skillset you have developed from your past experiences will help you perform these tasks.

Similarly, use the second paragraph of the body to talk about soft skills – teamwork, personality, interpersonal skills, etc. Typically, soft skills will be listed on the job description as desired by the employer. Like hard skills, select one or two soft skills mentioned and use your experiences to explain how you fit into their description of an ideal candidate.

5. Conclusion

The conclusion of the paragraph ties everything back together. The first sentence of the conclusion should relate to the first sentence of your introduction in some way to complete the story of your cover letter. Additionally, use the conclusion to express gratitude to the employer for taking the time to read and consider your application. Finally, mention that you look forward to hearing from the employer soon.

6. Complimentary Close

The complimentary close in a cover letter is usually “Sincerely”.

7. Signature

A hard copy of the letter should contain a hand-written signature while an electronic copy can use a digital signature.

Writing Tips

Here are some quick writing tips to give your cover letter an extra boost:

1. Expand on your Resume

Remember that the cover letter is used to expand on your resume. Avoid only repeating what was already mentioned on the resume. Instead, use the cover letter to expand on these points.

For example, if a statement on your resume was, “Generated over $1,000,000 in revenue by managing client transactions and delivering project proposals.”, expand on how you prepared these proposals and what skills you demonstrated.

2. The S.T.A.R. Method

When writing the body of your cover letter, the S.T.A.R. method of writing is useful:

S – Situation: the context behind the problem you solved. Why did you need to step in?

T – Task: what needed to be done to improve the situation. What goal were you working towards? What did you need to accomplish?

A – Action: the specific course of actions you took to accomplish the task.

R – Result: the outcome of your actions. Give numerical values to things to help the employer quantify your contribution.

3. Employer-based Perspective

The most important thing to remember when writing a cover letter is that you are not writing to talk about yourself. You are writing to talk about the company, the position, and how you fit the position. Every statement in the cover letter should focus on what the company needs and how you fulfill it.

The biggest mistake applicants make is focusing too much on their own careers and experiences. Instead of speaking on your life, focus on what the company needs for the position and how you fulfill their needs.

Cover Letter for Professionals

Cover letters for professionals come in three types, namely (1) application, (2) prospecting, and (3) networking cover letters. The first one is the most standard type, which is sent with a resume, while the second one is more of an inquiry into any job opening at a prospective company. The third type is not as common as the first two. It is still sent by an applicant to former colleagues, friends, and other contacts to seek their help in getting a job if they know of any openings.

Cover Letter for Internships

It is much easier to write a cover letter for an applicant with previous work experience. However, it can be challenging for someone who is writing one for an internship because of the lack or absence of any prior work experience.

The good thing is that it is still possible for an inexperienced applicant to sell himself through his cover letter by highlighting any past unpaid jobs, training, seminars, and volunteer work. It can also help to dedicate a paragraph to briefly talking about the applicant’s future goals, which should be in line with the job being applied for.

Is it okay to send an email cover letter?

In today’s age of the information superhighway and electronic correspondence, it isn’t wrong to ditch the traditional paper and brown envelope for the electronic one. Most job applicants today send their cover letters through emails or through social apps such as Twitter and LinkedIn. What is important is that the cover letter retains its formal yet personable tone and provides the same basic elements or parts.

Is it okay to use a cover letter template?

While it is ideal to write a personalized cover letter for the company you are applying to, a template is a helpful tool for creating a great cover letter. It helps provide the proper formatting and ensure that all important parts are present.

Tips When Using a Cover Letter Template

Here are some tips to remember:

1. Choose a Template

The internet is home to various cover letter templates, so applicants should choose carefully, bearing in mind the position or the job being applied for and the field or industry where it belongs.

2. Organize the Content

The applicant should list everything he wants to include in the cover letter, especially those things that are to be written in the various paragraphs.

3. Rewrite the Words

To personalize the letter, it is important to rephrase and use one’s own words.

4. Finalize the Letter

With the draft ready, the applicant can now use the template and set the format. The most acceptable font type is Times New Roman with font sizes 10 to 12 point. Other simple and formal fonts can also be used. Then, finally, save the file into PDF or MS WORD format and it is ready to be sent.

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Additional resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to writing a cover letter. CFI offers the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following resources will be helpful:

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