When you apply for a job using a resume, it is often customary to include a cover letter, unless the job ad specifically says not to. When you're filling out an application, you sometimes won't need to include a cover letter either. However, any chance you get to include a cover letter, take it – they can offer so much more insight into why you're the perfect candidate for a specific position.


What's a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is kind of what it sounds like – it's a letter that covers your resume, why you're applying to a position, and why you're the best candidate. Of course, you want to put all these into a concise letter that is only one page worth of content that shows your interest and experience – the rest they'll find in your actual resume.

Your cover letter, if you're not applying in person, is your first impression. That means it's important to know how to your letter in a way that draws the readers attention and sells you to them as the right candidate to meet with for an interview.



Rules for Cover Letter Writing

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There is specific information you should include in cover letters, and you want to format your letter in a certain way. You need to make sure your letter is written in a professional tone but still shows your personality. Once you've written your cover letter (you can have a basic template you use and alter for specific jobs and job types) have some friends with business and hiring experience look over your letter to make sure it doesn't need edits or revisions.


1. Length


Your cover letter should never be more than one page in length. It can sometimes be four paragraphs long, and at other times it can stretch to seven paragraphs – but no matter how many paragraphs and words, it needs to fit on one printed page.

Make sure you break paragraphs up, so it doesn't overwhelm the reader. You'll break the paragraphs up by what you're talking about – like your experience pertaining to the job and why you're applying for this particular position.


2. Format


You should have the information of who the letter is addressed to, followed by an introductory paragraph explaining what position you're applying for. You also want to include a conclusive paragraph that reiterates some of the main points that are spread throughout the rest of the cover letter.


3. Style and Tone


Your letter needs to have a professional, business-like tone, but you also want your own voice to shine through. If you're a comedian, you can add a thing or two that may make the reader chuckle, but keep it to the point of the job and as professional as possible.

Let your flair show in your words, not in other aspects. Stick with black or blue ink instead of trying to be colorful. Use cover letter stock that stands out, but don't go for outrageous colors or hard to read prints.


4. Grammar


Do not submit a cover letter that has errors. Even if you aren't applying for a writing or editorial job, you still need to spell check and read through the cover letter before you turn it in. You not only want to make sure that everything is spelled correctly and you're using all the right punctuation, but you also want to make sure that it reads like a normal person would talk (which is why it's important to read it out loud).


5. Content


The exact content that goes into your cover letter includes the following –

  • Always start with an introduction – “I am John Doe. My ten years of retail experience have helped me appreciate helping people find the items they need in their lives.”
  • Make mention of the specific job you are applying to – “I am applying for the lead retail sales position you recently advertised for.”
  • What makes you the right person for this job, and why are you qualified – “I have worked in retail sales for a decade and know that I can meet the expectations you have for your retail sales force.”
  • Use your words to encourage the person reading your letter to actually read your resume as well – “As you'll see in my resume, my experience in retail lead me from a part-time backup staff position to a full-time keyholder position in just a short time.”
  • Always finish your letter with what they should do next (call to action) – “Thank you for taking time to review my resume, I would love to schedule an interview with you at your earliest convenience.”

Organizing Your Cover Letter Content

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A well-organized cover letter will catch more attention than one that is put together all wonky. You want it to have a good flow in which the reader can expect what's coming next. This breakdown will offer you a more detailed look at how your cover letter should be organized.


1. The Opening Paragraph

Again, this is the introduction phase of the article. You need to let the reader know why you're writing – don't expect them to know that you're applying for a certain job, tell them which job. In this same paragraph, you can mention where you heard about the job.

Tell them who you are as well. Give them information on your background (as it pertains to the job you're applying to).


2. Next Couple Paragraphs

In the body of your email, you want to point out some of the things your reader should look at in your resume. Make them curious enough about what's in your resume so that they can't help but look at it – after all, this is the point of your cover letter. If the employer doesn't look at your resume, you have no chance of getting the job.

You also want to include the experience and education you have that meet the requirements of the job you're applying to. Yes, these are on your resume, but you also want to give them as many reasons as possible to look at the other sheet of paper that is sitting on their desk. Give an overview, not a verbatim copy of what they'll see in that resume.


3. The Closing paragraph

Your conclusive paragraph has a couple of places in which it needs to focus. The first focus needs to be on what you want the employer to do next, make them understand that they need to take action. Ask them to call you to schedule an interview.

Finish the letter with a thank you to the reader. You want them to know that you appreciate the fact that they took the time to read your cover letter. This is also a great part of the letter to point out whether or not you have any additional information, like samples or recommendations.



Other Important Tips for Cover Letter Writing

If you're struggling to get a start on your cover letter, there are some things you can think about that may help you get started and ensure that you pick the right wording.

Start out by considering who your audience is – this can be determined by where you're applying. Consider what you want out of sending this cover letter – do you want the job, do you want to be a liaison or work as a contractor? Ensure your job objectives me the needs that the audience set forth in their job ad.

Make sure that you are keeping the interest of your reader. What are you offering them – what experience do you have that will impress them? Make sure that it's professional and interesting, but sticks to the subject – which is the job that you're applying for.



Dealing With Multiple Cover Letters

You can have a basic cover letter template that you follow that has your contact info and signature on it, with a generic body of information, but you will have to basically rewrite the letter for each job you apply to. It needs to be tailored directly to the job at hand.

You won't ever be sending the same exact resume to two different jobs – if you're doing that it's pretty likely you'll never even get as far as an interview. Put a little time and effort into the creation of cover letters, and they can do a lot of good things for you.


​Final Thoughts on Cover Letters

You won't ever be sending the same exact resume to two different jobs – if you're doing that it's pretty likely you'll never even get as far as an interview. Make sure you are some putting time and effort into the creation of cover letters, and they can do a lot of good things for you.

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