How to Write the Best Cover Letter for Resume
Jul 05 2016
When it comes to the job search process, there are two commonly asked questions: Do I really need a cover letter and do I need one for all of my applications. The simple answer is yes. The cover letter is a chance for you to not only optimize your job search but make a connection with the employer. The cover letter is an excellent opportunity to really show what you are capable of and is an excellent tool to set yourself apart from other candidates.
This article is going to help provide a do it yourself strategy for writing the perfect cover letter.
Before you begin your cover letter start with ensuring that you have all the information you need by consulting the below checklist:
- Your contact information which includes your full name, email, phone number, address and, if applicable your Skype contact and LinkedIn link
- The readers contact info, if you do not know the person’s name using “Dear Hiring Manager,” is suitable
- The job posting
- Your tailored resume or CV
- The official name of the position and the company name
- A strong understanding of the company and the work they do
- Ensure that the letter is no more than one page
- Choose a format
- Ensure that your contact information is at the top and bottom of the cover letter when completed
More importantly, see below for a list of cover letter don’ts:
- Avoid retelling your resume
- Never use a font style that is different from the professional resume, they should match
- Avoid making a cover letter that is too wordy or more than one page
Once you have all of your information gathered, the next step you want to take is to plan out your method of projecting the info in a suitable manner. You want to do it so that it clearly explains to the employer who you are and what you can do for them.
Choosing a format
Believe it or not, there are two formats when writing a cover letter. The first format is simply three to four paragraphs and the second consists of paragraphs and bullet points. When choosing a cover letter format there is no right or wrong it is mostly a matter of personal preference.
The paragraphs go as follows:
First Paragraph: Tells the employer what position you are applying for and mentions the company name. The paragraph also should tell why you applied for this job and mention a fact about the company in relation to you.
Second Paragraph: This paragraph is the most important, as it gives the employer insight about your qualifications as it relates to the perspective job. This section explains your education, abilities, accomplishments and any work you have done that is specifically related to the job posting. This section is also a good area to directly address the must haves that the employer is looking for, for example, the ability to work specific shifts, certain academic certifications, etc.
Third Paragraph: This paragraph is meant to reaffirm your information or to discuss your soft skills such as multitasking, communication or anything related. It is always a good idea to mention something that you really like about the employer in this section as well.
When drafting your cover letter and if you choose the bullet point format, take note that this would be the section that takes over the second paragraph. It is advisable to include 6 to 7 bullet points. This format is suitable when you have several topics to discuss as the setup is meant to directly relay information.
How to select which information to include in the Cover Letter
This is often confusing for cover letter writers as the information you choose will set the tone for the entire cover letter and initial communication with the employer. Begin by selecting the most important information and qualifications that the employer is looking for. This information is geared towards the qualifications and job responsibilities.
When you read through the job posting you want to take note of what information has the closest relation to you and your background. In the event that there is must have skills, which you have not yet used in the workplace but have a strong knowledge base of you will want to take note of how you will explain this information in your cover letter. Once you have gathered the relevant information you should take the time to arrange it in a proper order.
See below for an example, of what order you could arrange your information in:
- Number of years, which includes work type and industries
- Must know information or skills which are mandatory (could be 1 to 3 points)
- Education and certification information
- Your knowledgebase information as it is related to the job
- Information about actual examples from past experiences (1 or 2 points)
This layout of information can be used for either cover letter format, and can be potentially broken up into two paragraphs if you choose the paragraph format cover letter. What really counts when you are writing a cover letter is that you are crafting a letter that speaks to the employer on a personal level. The contact between the candidate and employer is most effective when a personal connection is made. This can be done in a few ways: discussing your values in relation to the company, addressing the reader directly by name, giving real life examples of how you have helped past employers and ensuring that all of your points constantly come back to the job posting. The thing to remember is that employers are looking for someone who can solve a problem for them, and it is your job to explain how you can do that for them.
Once the middle points of the cover letter are completed and you have given the employer a strong sense of who you are and what you can do for them, you will want to use the last paragraph to reaffirm your enthusiasm for the position, your soft skills and any other information you feel the employer might need to know, followed by restating your contact information.