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How to write the sections of a cover letter
Header and salutation
Professional resume writers agree that the header of a cover letter can either go in the top left, top right or the center of the page, depending on which cover letter design you choose. To write it, follow these six steps.
Add your contact information including your name, home address, phone number, a professional email address, and a link to your LinkedIn profile and your professional website if you have one. Your contact information should be identical on your resume and cover letter.
Add a space below your contact information.
Write the date and then add one space below.
Write the name of the hiring manager (do your research!) and the full address of the company you’re applying to.
Add a space under the employer’s contact information.
Write your salutation by politely and professionally greeting the hiring manager directly if possible. “Dear Lucy Garcia,” is one example. If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, you should address the salutation in general terms, like “Pharmacy Technician Hiring Manager.” Never use a generic greeting such as “To Whom it May Concern” if you want to be taken seriously because it conveys you did not put in the effort to learn the name of the person you’re addressing.
The body of a cover letter includes an introductory paragraph and up to three additional paragraphs that describe your qualifications. It also provides examples of your past achievements and explains why you’re interested in the position and the company.
Furthermore, it states what you expect to accomplish for the company.
To write the body of a cover letter:
Start with a strong introduction. Some good ways to do this include:
Communicate your interest in the position and the organization.
Add a specific connection or a referral if you have one, but only if you are confident it will have a positive impact. It’s possible the hiring manager might not know or like the person.
Show you’ve researched the job and the company by mentioning a recent product launch, business expansion or some other newsworthy event.
Tell a creative story that highlights a relevant and recent job-centric accomplishment.
Demonstrate your personality. Cover letters give employers a glimpse of the person behind the letter. Virginia Martinez, director of talent recruiting at IDEO, says on the company website that cover letters help her see the difference between applicants because they provide insight into what makes individual job seekers unique.
Describe specific aspects of your related experience. Part of this is calling out your most admirable and relevant achievements. Remember that a cover letter is your big chance to expand on your resume by filling in missing details and telling the stories behind your accomplishments.
Talk about any atypical aspects of your resume. This may include employment gaps, a string of short-term jobs, or work at a job or industry that is much different than the one you’re applying to. Doing so gives you the chance to explain why those experiences add to your qualifications and expand on the measurable achievements highlighted in your resume.
The closing is where you briefly summarize why you’re the best candidate, invite the employer to contact you, and/or state that you’ll follow up with them. For example, “Thank you for your time. I look forward to speaking with you about my specialized skills and passion for nursing. You can reach me at [phone number and email].”
The signature is where you respectfully sign off. Conventions include “Sincerely,” “Thank you,” and “Best wishes,”. Avoid unprofessional or personal sign-offs, such as “Cheers,” “Love,” “Take care,” or “Warmly,”.
7 tips for writing an interview-winning cover letter
Cover Letter Writing Checklist
Research the company.
Customize it for the employer.
Consider your audience.
Demonstrate your value.
Show your excitement for the job and the company.
Use the proper format.
Eager to start writing your cover letter? We’ve compiled a list of the best tips to help you get started.
Research is crucial when writing your cover letter. You must learn about the prospective employer so you can speak to how you’re a possible match. Career consultants agree that someone who makes an effort to find out more about a company and shows this in their cover letter is preferred because they show commitment.
Our certified resume writers advise you to review every part of a company’s website, including its blog, check out its LinkedIn page for relevant recent business information, and Google any news articles or press releases that help you contextualize your candidacy for their business needs.
While conducting your research, look for the following:
What product(s) or service(s) do they provide? Learn about the company’s current products and services and what they intend to launch, and think about how you can assist with their plans.
What is the company culture? Do you feel you’re a good match for their culture? Find out if the culture is more on the creative and innovative side or more conventional and conservative.
What are the company’s values, challenges, mission and goals? Find out if you share common interests and values. Do you feel you could support them in achieving their mission and goals?
Who are their competitors? Learn about the organization’s current or emerging competitors. If you’re familiar with their competitors, this will be helpful to share in your cover letter.
Customize your letter for the employer.
Once you’ve done your research, you’re ready to customize your cover letter for your target company. One way to do this is to tailor your skills to the job requirements.
Consider your audience.
In order to make an impact, you’ve got to think about who will be reading your cover letter. Chances are, your audience will include the following:
- Applicant tracking systems (ATS) Many hiring managers and recruiters often make use of ATS software, which scans and sorts cover letters and resumes to weed out those that don’t match a job’s required skills and experience. To get past them, use keywords that best describe the company, job description and the position in your cover letter.
- RecruitersRecruiters rate and rank candidates for interviews. They look for the “best of the best,” scanning cover letters for achievements, awards and unique skill sets. When writing your cover letter, be sure to emphasize your most relevant successes and how you can apply them to the job.
- Hiring managersBusy hiring managers want to see a well-thought-out cover letter that shows you understand the role, you took the time to learn about the company, and that you have the qualifications necessary to perform the job.
Demonstrate your value by providing answers to such questions as:
How would you help to meet the company’s goals? For instance, if a retail business or manufacturer wants to expand their sales operations, share examples of your related achievements.
How would you help to further their mission? If you want to work for a company because you know their purpose is to sell only sustainable products, then mention your passion for environmental causes. If you volunteered for a green organization, then weave that experience into your narrative.
How would you help to support their ethics, business or values? For example,
If you’ve learned that the company wants to expand its charitable outreach to nonprofit organizations and you’ve worked for nonprofits, definitely highlight this experience.
How can you help them solve a problem? Demonstrate how you can provide a solution to a problem you may have discovered through your research.
Employers want to know precisely what you bring to the table. This could mean including facts and figures about past accomplishments. Career consultant Jodi Glickman recommends candidates convince an employer that a role is a perfect fit for them by providing related stories and anecdotes. For example, how many managers have you supported and how many sales have you made? Did you create a new process that helped the team or the company be more efficient?
Show your excitement for the job or company.
A great way to stand out from the competition is to show enthusiasm (but don’t go overboard!). Doing so helps employers envision you in the role and helps to create a sense of connection between you and the hiring manager. While researching the company conveys interest, sprinkling powerful and dynamic words, such as “motivated,” and “thrilled,” for instance, emphasizes your desire to work for the company. The Houston Chronicle recommends describing this feeling in the first sentence to grab the hiring manager’s attention. So if you’re thrilled at the idea of working at a start-up, let the company know right away.
Use the Right Format.
Hiring managers expect to see cover letters in the correct format, meaning with the proper margins, fonts and spacing. Your cover letter may be swiftly rejected if it’s misaligned or the typeface is illegible. And keep it short — no more than one page for quick reading. One way to think about it is if you only had 15 seconds to tell the prospective employer what they needed to know about you, what would you say?
5 Common Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid
If you’re taking the time to write a thoughtful cover letter to place yourself at the front of the pack, you’ve got to market yourself in the best way possible. Don’t ruin your chances by making the following common mistakes:
Rehashing your resume
Don’t even bother to apply to the job if this is your plan. Recruiters and hiring managers barely have time to read your resume once, so don’t waste your time (or theirs!) by writing it twice. The point of writing a cover letter is to show employers who you are and what you can do for them by diving deep into key pieces of your resume, filling in gaps when needed, and tying your qualifications to their needs.
Writing a generic letter
In order to get noticed, it’s critical to tailor your messaging to the company and the position. Think about it: Does a letter written with a personal message for you and addressed to you directly, resonate more or less than one written for anyone? Probably more. The same holds true for a cover letter. So take the time to learn about the company’s history, its goals and culture, what the job means in terms of the company’s success in the short- and long-term, and how you fit in the picture. Employers will be impressed.
Focusing on what you want or need over the employer’s needs
The company is looking for the best candidate to help them solve a particular problem, so your letter should focus on them and what you can do to help with their needs. Present your qualifications in a way that shows you are the answer to their problem.
Having misspellings, grammatical errors and typos
Proper grammar, good spelling, and typo-free sentences convey to employers that you are detail-oriented, care about how you present yourself, respect them and want the job. Always proofread your cover letter, and then proofread it again.
Being too wordy
Wordy paragraphs turn employers off. “Awkward and wordy sentences will discourage a hiring manager from reading the entire cover letter and will make a poor impression before the reader gets to the resume,” notes employment advice company Palladian Career Resources. In other words, don’t bore employers. Keep your paragraphs — and your cover letter — crisp, concise and to the point.
Why do we write cover letters?
We write cover letters because they expand on our resumes and provide details about our backgrounds that we can’t include in a resume. Plus cover letters allow us to create a sharp narrative around why we are the best choice for the position. When we learn how to write a good cover letter, we significantly increase our chances of landing an interview.
How do I write a cover letter if I’m underqualified for the job?
If you are underqualified for the job you’re applying to, then focus on your transferable skills and enthusiasm for the job. After all, the strongest letters don’t simply list qualifications. They paint a picture of a passionate applicant who will bring value to the team.
How do I write a good cover letter for my first job?
Applying for your first job can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, you don’t always need a lot of experience to get hired; passion and determination can go a long way. You can also play up your skill set, class projects and testimonials to build a compelling case for yourself. Show whatever relevant experience you have, even if it isn’t from prior jobs.
Where can I make a cover letter?
The best place to create a cover letter is Resume Now’s cover letter builder. Use the powerful editor, pre-written suggestions and beautiful, professional templates to create an immediate cover letter now.