Employers typically request that you submit a cover letter with your resume when you apply for a position. The cover letter is your personal introduction to a prospective employer outlining your interest in the position and the organization, and expressing why you are qualified for the position. A cover letter is not a summary of your resume; rather, it is a "teaser" that hopefully entices a potential employer to read your resume.
Each cover letter should be tailored to a specific job description and organization. Show how you meet the required qualifications for that particular job by emphasizing the two or three strongest reasons why you are a compelling candidate (something more than: “I could do that job.”). Demonstrate what you know about the organization/industry, and why you are a good fit. Use confident language, write in an active voice, and, except in rare circumstances, limit your letter to one page.
Point: Before you begin writing your cover letter, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the employer looking for in a candidate?
- What skills/attributes do you want to highlight?
- Why do you want to work for them?
- Why this position?
The cover letter is your opportunity to present your professional narrative in a way that persuades the reader that you are a terrific fit for the position, and that it is a natural next step in your career path. While your resume lists your relevant skills and experience, your cover letter can play a complementary role by expressing your interest and motivation for the position and by highlighting your strongest and most relevant assets.
Opening Paragraph: Introduce yourself. Who are you? Why are you writing? Connect yourself to that particular employer. Why do you want to work for that employer? Why that position?
Middle Paragraph(s): Identify 2-3 relevant experiences from your background to elaborate on. Make them brief, and demonstrate your skills and experiences by way of example. Include results.
Concluding Paragraph: Summarize qualifications. Reiterate interest in the employer. Invite them to speak further on how your qualifications align with their mission and purpose.
Elements of a Strong Cover Letter
- Is concise yet thorough
- Uses specific examples rather than a string of generalities
- Varies sentence structure, is well-written, keeps the reader’s attention and flows well
- Focuses on strengths and transferable skills
- Is tailored to the employer and position – makes a connection
- Has genuine tone, demonstrating style and personality
- Is confident, not cocky
- Complements, instead of repeats, the resume