INTRODUCTION TO COVER LETTERS
A Cover Letter is a letter that you write to go with your résumé. This letter is a way to tell the employer what job you are applying for and why you would be a good candidate for this job. It is a way of making the professional, generic résumé more personal and addressing the specific needs of the company and how you can meet their needs.
In this packet, we will help you learn what needs to go into a cover letter. We will also teach you how to write a good cover letter.
WRITING COVER LETTER - RULES TO REMEMBER
It is not appropriate to use a generic “To Whom It May Concern” Cover Letter. So, you will need to write a cover letter for every job you are applying for with a resume.
Every time you write a cover letter, there are some rules you should remember:
- Type Your Cover Letter: No business person is going to take you seriously if you turn in a handwritten cover letter. Employers expect the people who are going to work for them to be professional, and that means the work that you present must be high quality work.
- Limit the Cover Letter to One Page: People who review résumé and cover letters have a limited amount of time. Try to give them what they need to know in the shortest amount of space, and they will pay closer attention than if you write a lot. If you turn in more than one page of a cover letter, it may not get read or may be considered unprofessional.
- Always Turn in a Cover Letter with a Résumé: Even if it is not in the job listing, it is expected. Many employers will not list the need for a cover letter with your résumé in a print ad because they are charged per word, and assume you will know that they want one. If you take the time to do a cover letter, you will be a more impressive applicant than all the other people who did not.
- Make Your Cover Letter Look Professional: You are being judged by your cover letter and there are some things that you can do to make it look more professional. Spell check it. Make sure the letter looks like the template in this packet. Keep the letter unfolded, if possible and make sure you don’t hand in one with stains, spills, wrinkles or other marks.
- Sign Your Cover Letter: Your cover letter is not complete until you sign it. It is standard business practice to hand sign your letters, and will show employers that you really did write this letter yourself. Sometimes you will be asked to fax your résumé and cover letter. The employer will not have an original signature, but the fax copy will still show your signature. If the employer wants the résumé and cover letter emailed to them, you will need to print the cover letter, sign it and scan it. Then send the cover letter as an attachment.
USE THE JOB LISTING
When an employer writes their advertisement for a job, they have several options on where they will publish their job listing. Some places charge by the word like print and online newspapers. Some places are free, but limit the amount of space an ad can take like a private website or community job listing. Other sites allow ads to be as long as the employer wants and don’t charge, like the state employment services website.
Wherever the employer decides to list the job, or however long the ad is, you will usually find words that describe what the company is looking for.
You should use the information in the job listing to write your cover letter. That way, you can make sure you are giving the company the information they care about and it will help them make the decision to give you an interview.
Here are some suggestions on ways to use the Job Listing to improve your Cover Letter and improve your chances of getting an interview:
- Use the Job Title Exactly as it is in the Job Listing: Different companies have different names for similar jobs. To avoid confusion and to show respect for the company’s word choices, use their job title.
- Apply for Different Jobs Separately: Never list more than one job on your cover letter, not even if there is more than one job opening that you would like to apply for. Sometimes résumés for different jobs are assigned to different people. For the best chance at each job, make a separate cover letter for each job and attach a copy of your resume to each cover letter, and send them separately.
- Use The Words in the Listing: Employers are looking for specific things and put them in their want ad. Many employers scan the résumés and cover letters with computers or by hand looking for the skills, abilities, qualities, experience and education listed in their job listing. A cover letter that includes eight of the words form the listing is more likely to get an interview than someone who only has two. Their words are important to them, so use their words, don’t use similar words to make it more interesting. If the ad says “looking for a dependable, team player with basic computer skills,” – Do Not write “I am a reliable person who works well in a group. I also have extensive experience with computers.” It would be okay to write: “I am dependable, a great team player that works well in a group. I also have extensive computer experience including basic computer skills, Excel, PowerPoint, and Web Design”
If the job listing doesn’t have any information besides the job title, and contact information, then call and try to get more information about the job requirements. If that doesn’t work, then think about what the company probably would like in an employee and write about those things.