How to Write a Great Cover Letter
Applying for your first, fifth, or tenth job? Congrats! Most of us will fill out a few applications in our life, and many jobs require a résumé and cover letter as well. A résumé outlines your experience and education, while a cover letter is written in a letter format (with sentences and paragraphs, not bullet-points) and is where your personality and ambition can really come through.
A few things to note:
Every cover letter to each job should be unique! Do not copy and paste anything, even if you are reusing information. Force yourself to rewrite it so it feels fresh and ensures accuracy for that specific job. You’d hate to accidentally say how excited you are to be flipping burgers when you’re applying to be a phlebotomist.
The layout and design is up to you, but we think simple is a good place to start. If you use a fancy header for your résumé then consider using it for your letter, but it is not necessary. We’ll go over formatting below.
A properly formatted letter will stand out above the rest, and a poorly formatted letter will be judged before its even read. Formatting is simple, but make sure to proofread and take it slow.
Make sure to include the following information in the upper left-hand corner of your paper or word document:
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
Hiring Manager’s Name
Company City, State, Zip Code
What if you don’t know the hiring manager’s name? Call and ask! Don’t be embarrassed. It makes you look good! Can’t get ahold of anyone? Then address the letter to the department you are applying to. For example, “Storysquares Marketing Department Hiring Committee.” If you are applying to a large company, like ABC Fast Food, then address it to the specific store: “Greenville ABC Fast Food Hiring Committee.” Be as specific as you can and always try and avoid “To Whom it May Concern.” That’s boring.
If you are submitting online, which most people are these days, you can leave off the recipients’ address, but still include their name in the greeting. Don’t know the name? Follow the same guidelines above.
Make sure to have a personalized greeting, as noted above. You may start with “Dear” or “To” — whichever best matches your tone and personality, as well as the job for which you are applying.
First paragraph: First and foremost, introduce yourself and state the job you are applying for. You may begin this with “Hello!” or jump right in: “My name is ____ and I am applying for the position of _____ at (company name). Use this first paragraph to hook their attention and show your excitement for the job. Why do you want this job? Why are you the right fit? How does this job align with your career goals? If someone referred you to this position, and the company knows them, this would be a good spot to include their name.
Note: Everyone structures letters differently, but it can be helpful to outline 2-3 main points in your first paragraph that you will go into in the body of the letter. Think of it like a mini thesis statement. For example (note the underlined points): “My name is Jenny and I am applying for the position as receptionist at Dazzling Dog Grooming. I have always wanted to work with animals and Dazzling Dog Grooming seems like an excellent fit. I think I am a great candidate because I am very detail-oriented, and I am on the path to attending veterinary school after undergrad.”
Middle paragraphs: Use the middle paragraphs to expand on your strengths specific to that particular job, and why you want to work there. Be specific and targeted. For example, you may not need to talk about your excellent computer skills for a farming job. However, if the farming job requires bookkeeping, then definitely include it! Try and focus on one targeted point per paragraph.
Closing paragraph: Use this paragraph to thank the hiring committee or individual for their time and consideration, and to reiterate why you would be a good fit for the position and why you want the job. It is customary to end with an invitation for them to contact you with questions, or if they would like more information.
Closing : This is the word right before your name, such as: sincerely, regards, thank you, or respectfully. Avoid “cheers” or “warmly,” or anything that could come off too casual. Finally, include your full name. If this is a paper letter leave enough space for your signature between the closing and your name.
Good luck! We hope you get the job of your dreams, or the job to put you in the direction of your dreams. Have any questions? Want to share a success story? Or, want to hear about all of the jobs we’ve had over the years? Reach out to say hello!