A cover letter is a document that accompanies your resume and introduces you and your qualifications to a potential employer. A good cover letter makes the hiring manager want to learn more about you, read your resume and possibly invite you for an interview.
The same steps apply for writing a good cover letter as they do for writing a resume. You should always tailor your cover letters for the specific position and company you are interested in. Then naturally, the first step is to do research about the company and the job so you can customize your materials to their needs. Click to view Cover Letter Tips.
There are four main sections of a cover letter: Salutation, Introduction, Body, & Closing
Although many internship/job postings do not list a contact name, it is very important that you try to identify the specific individual to whom to address your cover letter. If you do not have a contact name, conduct some research, or call the company and ask. The calling script below offers a suggestion on how to contact a company.
Calling Script Sample
Sometimes you will see postings that indicate “No Calls Please.” In this case, you will often have to be more creative. Look for recent news articles on the company and identify individuals listed, use Career Search, and ask friends if they know anyone in the organization. Contact these individuals and ask for an informational interview with them. While you are speaking to the contact, ask if that person could help you identify the individual to whom you should address your cover letter.
If you have exhausted every means of identifying the name of the individual to whom you should address your cover letter, then address the letter to the “hiring manager” or “employer.” This should be an absolute last resort.
Once you have identified the person’s name for your salutation, you can begin your introduction.
Introduction: State the purpose of the letter
Your introduction must both state the purpose of your letter and grab the attention of the reader. Tell where you heard about the organization or position. State the specific position for which you are applying, or identify the field in which you are seeking employment. Grab the reader’s attention by stating achievements that the reader would find interesting or by mentioning a mutual acquaintance’s/friend’s name if appropriate.
Body: Express interest and sell yourself
Express your motivation for applying or inquiring. State your compatibility with the company/job description without simply rehashing your resume. Give specifics about what interests you in the job/organization and show how your experiences and skills fit the qualifications requested. Identify two or three of your “key selling points” that are related to the opening or organization. What are two or three skills or achievements that will set you apart from other candidates? Remember, you are competing against others who are as qualified, if not more qualified, than yourself. Indicate you have the desire to succeed and the ability to perform well.
Closing: Express intentions and thanks
Show consideration for the reader. State when you will make contact concerning an interview. Include your phone number and email address. Request action, ask for an interview. Thank the reader. Close with “Sincerely,” “Cordially,” or “Respectfully.” Always include “Enclosure” or “Attachment” [electronic] at the bottom if you are sending any other information, such as your resume.
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