Writing a cover letter is part of the application process. Whether you are applying for a permanent job or a temporary internship, you are required to submit a cover letter along with other documents such as a resume or curriculum vitae. The importance of learning how to write a cover letter cannot be overstated. As the document that conveys your intention, the impression it gives can make or break your application. In this post, we provide a brief tutorial on how to write a cover letter.
What is a cover letter
A cover letter is a document you usually send with your resume or curriculum vitae when applying for a position. Its main purpose is to express your intention of filling the position as well as provide additional information on your suitability. Cover letters are read by human resource personnel or hiring managers to screen applicants. In other words, the goal of your letter is to land you an interview. Therefore, your letter should be able to show why you are a good candidate for the position. It should make a great impression so that the person reading it will consider you. A cover letter is a formal document, so make sure that it is written in a formal language. It should be free of any grammatical or typographical errors, especially since the overall quality of your letter reveals a lot about you as an employee.
Writing a cover letter can be tricky. The most common mistake that people make when writing a cover letter is reciting the contents of the resume. But doing so will only make your cover letter repetitive. Although your cover letter will mention some of the details featured in your resume, it needs to do so by explaining its significance in relation to the position you are applying for. For instance, your cover letter should not only state the skills that you have; instead, it should explain how those skills you possess make you the perfect person for the job. The same goes for any experience that you have had. For example, you should not just recount experiences for the sake of stating them; rather, you should explain how those experience will help you perform your duties well. The rule of thumb is: everything you state in your letter should work towards explaining why you qualify for the job. That said, keep you cover letter concise. State only the most relevant points and do not flood your reader with too much information. A reader will lose interest if the letter is too long.
- Header. The first part of the cover letter is the header, which usually includes your name, address, and contact information. Write your full name at the top on the center. Indicate your address and any pertinent contact information below your name.
- Date. Indicate the date you wrote the letter on the left a few lines before your name and contact information.
- Recipient. Still part of the header is the recipient’s name, position, and address. Indicate the recipient’s full name, and then indicate the position and the address in the succeeding lines.
- Salutation. The salutation comes after the header. The salutation usually begins with “Dear” followed by the title “Mr.” or “Ms./Mrs.” and the recipient’s surname. If you are unsure if the recipient is male or female, you may omit the title and use the full name instead.
- Body. The body is the part where you convey your message. A good cover letter is like an essay in that it has three subparts: introduction, the main body, and closing.
- The first part is the introduction, which usually comprises the first paragraph. Here you should introduce yourself and express your interest in filling the position. You should also end this part by providing a concise statement explaining why your credentials match the position. Think of this as the thesis statement of your letter.
- The second part is the main body. In this part, you will further explain why you are interested in the position and why you deserve to be hired. This is where you discuss the significance of the details in your resume. When writing this part, do your best to illustrate your competence by discussing how your credentials will enable you to perform well. The length of the main body varies, but it should be concise enough to maintain your reader’s attention. One or two paragraphs should be enough for this part.
- The closing is the last part. In this part, you should restate your interest in the position and why you are a good candidate. Also convey your openness to an interview or discussing employment opportunities in person. Finally, thank your reader.
- Signature. The final part is where you present your complimentary close such as “Sincerely” or “Respectfully” followed by your full name and signature.
- Paper Size. There is no standard paper size for a cover letter, but the most frequently used are Letter (8.5’ x 11’) or A4 (8.27’ x 11.69’).
- Font and Size. Use an easily readable font, such as Time New Roman or Calibri. The size should also be readable, with 12 being widely considered as the most acceptable.
- Margin. The margin should be 1 inch on all sides.
- Block Formatting. The most commonly used format for a business letter is block formatting. This format requires that the entire letter be left justified, single-spaced, and double-spaced between the paragraphs.