How to Write a Cover Letter
A cover letter should be the appetizer that whets an employer's
hiring appetite. In a few brief paragraphs, you need to demonstrate how your
unique combination of skills will add value to the company - and why you are
a better fit than all those other candidates.
"This should be about
grabbing someone's attention with your view of their problem and how you can
solve it," says Beth Hendler-Grunt. She is the CEO of Next Great Step, a company
dedicated to coaching new graduates looking for jobs.
not be a recap of the resume attached. It should give insight to how you have
thought about the position and what impact you can make on the business."
Research the company and the specific position so you can tailor your
cover letter to that particular employer (and yes, you should always address
the letter to a specific person.) What are they looking for and how can you
provide it? Give concrete evidence of how your abilities will benefit the
"If you say that you can help a company achieve greater
success, you have to show how you can do that and demonstrate your competence
that you have done it before," says Hendler-Grunt.
If you worked for
a campus newspaper, for instance, talk about how you delegated responsibility,
took the initiative to try new design software, and learned how to lead meetings
while still being part of a team. Don't exaggerate, but don't be modest either.
This is your chance to really sell yourself.
Be careful not to get
too wordy. A cover letter should be short and to the point. Be selective in
what you choose to emphasize. Keep it focused, simple and interesting.
are a few more tips:
- Stay away from templates. Don't copy samples word for word - it shows.
Don't get someone else to write the letter for you, either. Just be yourself
and do it yourself. Make the letter unique to who you are and it will likely
- Be enthusiastic, but not gushing. Many employers place a high premium
on "fit." If there are lots of qualified people for a position, a candidate
with a real passion for the work may come out on top. Be clear about why you
want the job, but don't say anything you don't really mean.
- Avoid jokes and putting yourself down. A cover letter is not the place
to show off your sense of humor. Keep the funny anecdotes for your dinner
parties, or at least until the employer establishes the tone of your subsequent
conversations. Maintain a professional distance first.
- Proofread carefully. Misspellings and poor grammar may indicate to the
employer that you'd be a careless employee. Use proper English and avoid abbreviations,
slang or technical jargon.
When you do submit your application, put the cover letter in the body
of the email. Don't add it as a separate attachment unless the company's online
application system requires you to do it that way. (If an online system won't
allow you to submit a cover letter at all, try to find someone you can email
to follow up.)
"Many people scan emails and do not open attachments,"
says Hendler-Grunt. "If you want to get their attention, you need to state
it in the body of the email. If you decide to attach it, you still need to
say something compelling [in the email] that shows your understanding of their
needs and how you can help them.