How to Develop an Effective Cover Letter

Cover letters are meant to further explain details given in a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). They expand upon existing information, and provide necessary context.

Since cover letters are often read before resumes, it is important to fashion an effective cover letter. The following sections outline why cover letters are vital for jobseekers, and how you can write a great cover letter. Review these sections, and learn whether you should write cover letter or not.

How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

There are three main types of cover letters from which you can choose to write. These include:

  • The application letter.
  • The prospecting letter.
  • The networking letter.

The most common cover letter you will encounter is the application letter. This letter is written in response to a job posting, whereas prospecting letters are used to ask companies about available positions, and networking letters are sent to professionals when you need help during a job search. You must ensure you use the correct cover letter for your intended purpose. However, this section will focus on an application cover letter.

For application cover letters, you may be instructed to write your letter as its own document, or to include your letter in an email. However, some companies may prefer print copies of your cover letter and resume. You should find out which in format companies would like your cover letter as soon as possible. Before writing your application cover letter, you are also encouraged to contact the potential employers or recruiters to ask questions about the position to reference in your letter. For instance, you could inquire about a detailed job description and what qualities they are expecting in applicants. Additionally, you should contact friends or family members who may be familiar with the company, and ask for their permission to be listed in your cover letter. Mentioning professional connections to your cover letter can inform employers or recruiters that you are reliable, and are accustomed to the industry or work environment

While every cover letter will differ, the steps for completing cover letters remains the same. To write an effective cover letter, you should follow these simple steps:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Describe why you are right for the job
  3. Clarify your resume
  4. Thank the employers or recruiters for their consideration
  5. Request an interview or conversation with the employers or recruiters

By structuring your cover letter this way, you can easily accomplish everything a cover letter is intended to cover – such as referencing your resume, and encouraging the employer or recruiter to consider you for employment. However, there are some things you need to remember while constructing your cover letter. These include:

  • Being specific: Include job titles and dates, when appropriate. You should never use cover letters for multiple jobs. Each cover letter should reflect the position, and exemplify your knowledge of your possible responsibilities.
  • Being honest: Not only do you have to present yourself in a positive manner, but you must also provide truthful information about yourself – and your abilities. Lying in a cover letter can result in confusion or disqualification if employers discover the lie.
  • Addressing your resume: Do not restate your resume entirely. Instead, elaborate on your previous work responsibilities, and use them to illustrate your passion for – and knowledge of –the job.
  • Including all relevant job information: Your cover letter should acknowledge a few of the qualifications necessary for a position, and show how you meet them.
  • Keeping it short: Because cover letters are short documents – generally one page in length, or 350 words – you need to use your space wisely.
  • Maintaining a consistent format and tone: Cover letters should be written in a traditional business letter format, unless submitted as email. Also, cover letters should be formal in tone, and should be written in first person.

Finally, it is essential to include all required information in your cover letter to guarantee employers or recruiters can contact you with additional details and determine the position for which you are applying. Consequently, you should always have the following information in your cover letter:

  • The name of the position to which you are applying
  • The names of the employers or recruiters to which you are writing
  • Your contact information
  • A summary of your skills and qualifications related to the position

The Importance of Cover Letters

As your first, written communication with a potential employer, a cover letter is extremely important. Typically, cover letters accompany resumes, but they may also be submitted separately, depending on the company’s requirements. Even if hiring companies do not require you to submit a cover letter, you are still advised to attach a copy of a cover letter to your application to show you have put in significant effort.

When applying for a new job, writing a cover letter should be a priority. A cover letter tends to be a huge determining factor of employment, perhaps equaling – or even surpassing – the importance of a resume while job hunting. Additionally, cover letters are used as a part of the application process for most graduate school programs and some internships and apprenticeships. Therefore, understanding how to write an effective cover letter can help you advance in your professional career, and succeed in attaining high-paying jobs.

Benefits of Cover Letters

In cover letters, you can explain aspects of your resume that may need explanations, such as your lack of work experience or a recent layoff. As opposed to resumes, cover letters give you the opportunity to highlight the value of your abilities, and turn a seemingly adverse situation into an advantage.

Another benefit cover letters offer you is the chance to state how you differ from other applicants. While resumes adhere to strict, bulleted formats, cover letters use full sentences, and give you the liberty to diversify yourself. This benefit of cover letters can set you apart from applicants, and help you make a lasting impression.

Cover letters enable you to demonstrate your intelligence and writing skills, as well. In an effective cover letter, employers can see how well you write and explain your abilities. When you submit a cover letter that is free of mistakes and common errors, it allows you to be seen as a competent, potential employee.

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