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A well-written application letter (or cover letter) is your initial introduction to a potential employer and the starting point that will lay the groundwork for future interactions. This crucial document is your chance to show off a bit of your personality, explain more about how you’re uniquely qualified for the job at hand, and drive home what you’re looking to get out of your next position.
To create a strong version of this tool, review the application letter samples provided and note the various approaches and elements used. For additional tips to make your letter your own, keep reading.
How to Write an Application Letter
- Do your research. Before you begin to write, you should have the job posting and the hiring manager’s name in front of you, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a look at the company’s website either. You’re not writing a one-size-fits-all cover letter, so keep the specific information you need handy.
- Learn from application letter samples. You should also have a look at application letter samples to identify the differences in approach and begin to form an idea of which would best suit you. Finally, use the specific points below to plan what you will focus on in your document.
- Tailor your document to the job/company. The best letters are specific to the employer, so don’t take the easy way out by using the same letter for every job application. Match your skills to the company’s needs, and they’ll be more likely to read your resume.
- Demonstrate some knowledge of the company. Don’t gush, but make the employer feel you’re speaking to specifically to them.
- Identify the top three requirements for the job. By repeating their own words back to them and then dovetailing your skills to fit their needs, you’ll seem like a natural fit.
- Tout your transferable skills. Whether you’re considering a major career change or just a slight shift, your transferable skills should be described as desirable for the position.
How to Format an Application Letter
Do all you can to get the individual’s name to whom your letter should be addressed. If you can’t identify the individual, try the person’s job title or department. Begin your research by calling the company’s main number. Even “Dear Hiring Manager” is better than “To Whom It May Concern”.
Your first paragraph should be a brief introduction that quickly sparks the employer’s interest and convincingly identifies why you believe you’re a good fit for the position advertised.
You can use the next one or two paragraphs, the body of your letter, to match your skills to the stated requirements in the job description and to explain how your accomplishments and achievements support the claim you made in paragraph one. You should also show knowledge of the company here, and relate your capabilities back to what the organization would need.
Your closing paragraph should always include a thank you, your contact information, and a specific date you’ll contact them about the next step in the process.
Review the application letter samples for different closings.
Keep in mind that brevity is as important as specificity, so even if you’re writing two paragraphs, neither should be more than three sentences, and above all else, your document should never be more than one page.
Common Application Letter Mistakes
- Unintentionally writing a generic application letter: If you only talk about yourself and your skills without matching them to the employer’s needs, your letter will come off as generic.
- Too dependent on spell check: If your letter gets sent out with typos that spell check can’t see, you’ll make a poor first impression Ð the opposite of everything you’re trying to do..
- Too long: As you can see from application letter samples, your application letter should never be more than one page long. The white space between the paragraphs is easy on the eyes of the recipient, and a brief letter shows focus and prioritization.
You’ve Written Your Application Letter. Now What?
After you’ve finished your letter, go for one more polish to make sure it reads smoothly, makes logical sense, and builds interest in you and what you can offer. Read it through the eyes of the employer and edit accordingly. Compare it to some of the application letter samples to see how it holds up.
Just as your first paragraph should draw them in, your closing should leave them wanting more. There are a couple of ways to do that.
Provide your contact information. Make it easy for the hiring manager to find your contact information. You can include it in your last paragraph or as part of your signature block.
Don’t just say “I look forward to hearing from you.” Since you can’t make them take the next step, it’s up to you. Let them know you’ll be contacting them if you haven’t heard within a certain time period.