Does just the idea of writing a cover letter stress you out to no end?! Well, fear not…because one, you’re not alone; and two, today we’ll talk a little bit about how to compose an impressive cover letter that lets your strengths really shine through to an admissions team or potential employer.
First things first – always start every cover letter writing process with the following four steps:
- Research and find an advertisement for a position that interests you.
- Summarize in writing the position’s (a) expectations/duties, (b) the knowledge/skills, and (c) characteristics/qualities an that the ideal candidate for the position would possess.
- Make a mind map to brainstorm personal anecdotes and experiences that demonstrate that you meet the qualifications.
- Merge this content into your cover letter.
Your cover letter should have the following sections:
- Your name, phone number, and e-mail are non-negotiable. You must have these clearly visible at the top of your letter. You may use your discretion about whether or not to include your home address. Remember, NEVER use the address of your current employer! It could come across as tacky. And if you’re sending a cover letter in the body of an e-mail, you can put your contact information in your signature rather than at the top.
- Your potential employer’s contact information is important to include. If you don’t have it, leave out this section.
- An appropriate salutation. If you have your potential employer’s name, use “Dear. Mr. Smith,” or “Dear Ms. Jane Doe.” If you don’t have your potential employer’s name, you can use “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “To Whom it May Concern.” Just do a little research…it’s perfectly acceptable to call or e-mail ahead of time and ask who will be reviewing your cover letter.
Body of Your Cover Letter
- The first paragraph should explain why you’re writing.
- The second paragraph should include what you have to offer.
- How you’re planning on following up. Will you call or e-mail to make sure they’ve received your materials? A week is usually an appropriate amount of time to wait to follow up.
Ending of Your Cover Letter
- Your signature…remember, keep it classy! “Sincerely” can be a little overused, but don’t get too wild. Last week I saw a cover letter signed “Warmth and Hugs” and was a little bit startled. “Best” or “Warm Regards” are usually safe.
- If you’re sending it electronically, feel free to add links to your LinkedIn or Twitter accounts, provided that they are professional in nature.
Other Things to Remember
If you’re sending your cover letter as an e-mail attachment (a very likely scenario) save it as a PDF, not a Word document. This is a must. Your future employer doesn’t want to see red and green squigglies when Word suspects you’ve misspelled your last name.
Also, use the same font and formatting guidelines from the last blog post on resume writing.
Other small tips and tricks?
- Make it legible! Stick to the basics.
- Leave blank space so it’s not overwhelming or too long.
- If you’re attaching your cover letter and resume in the same e-mail (also a very likely scenario) make sure the font and formatting styles are the same. It’s more visually appealing.
Here’s an example:
I hope you’ve made it to the end of this blog post, as I promise you won’t regret it. I know this isn’t the most exciting subject matter, but let’s face it: it’s a necessary step in the right direction of landing your dream job!
By Amy Salk, Former Barcelona SAE Staff Member