Writing Cover Letters: Getting Started

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The intention of this article is to provide the elements of a Cover letter and help you organize your thoughts and take a structured approach to writing a tailored Cover Letter.

A Cover Letter addressed to a specific person should accompany every resume that you submit, whether online or via snail mail. For online applications the email is your Cover Letter.

Your Cover Letter is an important document because this is the employer’s first impression of you. The Cover Letter has to draw the reader to proceed on to reading your resume. A Cover Letter should give a brief summary introduction of your resume.

The cover letter gets your resume read, your resume gets you to the interview, and your interviewing skills get the job on the interview.

The purpose of a Cover Letter is to:

  1. Make that ever important first impression
  2. Introduce you and your resume
  3. Summarize experience from your resume in a prose (or story-like) format
  4. Highlight and directly relate specific experience and skills to the position requirements.

Getting Started:

  1. Carefully read the job description and requirements.
  2. Read over your resume.
  3. Compare your Resume and the job description and requirements, and make notes on where there are matches.
  4. Make a keyword outline using the terms that match up to use when writing the Cover Letter.

Segments of a Cover Letter:

  1. Letter Heading: Your name, contact information, and the date.
  2. Addressee and Salutation: contact person, company information, and salutation. (I.E.: Dear __:)
  3. Opening Paragraph: Three brief sentences providing the basis for your contact.
    1. Sentence 1: The purpose of your resume submission citing the company and the position as stated in the advertisement.
    2. Sentence 2: Information on from whom or where you obtained the information on the available position.
    3. Sentence 3: Sets the tone of the main body of the letter. This sentence should introduce the key qualifications from your resume that match up with the position requirements. Address these key qualifications in the main body of the cover letter.
  4. Main Body (1 to 3 paragraphs):
    1. Provide a brief and concise overview of where your background matches up with or relates to the position requirements.
    2. Do not repeat your resume; provide the story of how you fit the position.
    3. Use a separate paragraph for each of the 2 or 3 key qualifications selected to highlight.
  5. Closing Paragraph:
    1. Open with a sentence summarizing the match of your qualifications to the position requirements.
    2. Request an interview.
    3. Restate your contact information (a phone number or email address), and how you will follow-up with the potential employer.
  6. Closure and Signature
    1. Use a fitting closure (i.e. Best Regards, Sincerely, etc.)
    2. Type you name
    3. Provide a “signature”. The signature should include:
      • Your complete first and last name
      • Street Address
      • City, State Zip code
      • Cell Phone
      • Email


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