by Deborah Brown-Volkman
Does your cover letter convey who you are and what you want quickly, or does it confuse the reader?
A cover letter is a document that introduces you and your resume to prospective employers. It is your opportunity to give employers a good look at yourself, your credentials, and your background. In many cases, it is the first thing an employer sees (because it goes in front of your resume), so expect it to make your opening impression.
Cover letters can do more than simply introduce you. They can give an employer a more in-depth view of who you are and what you will bring to the table.
The ideal cover letter is focused, professional, and well-written. While the hiring decision-maker is reading your cover letter, he or she is deciding if it makes sense to continue on to your resume. If you cannot make your cover letter great, the employer has no reason to believe you will do great work for the organization either.
The Format of an Ideal Cover Letter:
1. I am writing to you today because...
In this section, state why you are writing to the employer. Where did you see the ad for the position, or who recommended you?
2. I like your company because...
In this paragraph, compliment the employer's successes and what you admire about them. Sincere flattery goes a long way and shows that you have taken the time to get to know the employer in more detail.
3. Here are relevant examples of what I have done that match with what you are looking for...
In this paragraph, discuss your accomplishments or highlights that you want to showcase or have the employer locate quickly. Bullets work well in making your accomplishments easy to read.
4. Here's why I am a good candidate...
In this paragraph, describe who you are and what makes you stand out. Include your strengths and what you are passionate about in your career.
5. Here's my contact information...
In this paragraph, tell the employer that you are excited and looking forward to the interview. Make note of your contact information and say what next steps will be. If you plan to follow up (and you should), state when the employer can expect to hear from you. Make sure you do what you say will you do.
Then, it's up to you...
An ideal cover letter can get you the interview. What you do once you get there is in your hands.
Need to see some sample letters before you get started writing yours? Check out these Sample Dynamic Cover Letters for Job-Seekers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Go back to the Cover Letter Resources for Job-Seekers section of Quintessential Careers, where you will find a collection of the best cover letter tools and resources, including articles, tutorials, and more.