How to Write a Successful Cover Letter
With such a large job market now more than ever, a cover letter is an important part of applying to a job. As short as it may seem, there is much to be considered when drafting your cover letter. Below are things you should keep in mind to help you write a successful cover letter.
Who are you talking to?
Too many job-seekers do their-selves a disservice by working so hard to draft a finely-tuned resume and cover letter and forget to address who they are talking to. Many people begin a cover letter by using “To Whom It May Concern” or some other general salutation. When you address a letter to nobody despite knowing who you are talking to, it looks to the hiring manager like their company is just one of many this letter is going out to. They will not expect that you have any personal investment in working at their company and may miss any effort you make to address them specifically in your letter. Find out who you’re sending this letter to and speak to them.
Don’t be trapped in a template:
It is very tempting, when you begin the endeavor of applying to an overwhelming amount of jobs, to use a template cover letter you find online. While the general formatting of a template can be great, many people make the mistake of filling in the blanks inside the actual letter part of their cover letter template. Chances are you are not the only person using the specific template you find. Formally composed template language sticks out like a sore thumb to hiring managers.
Our Career Services Coordinator, Narineh Derafshkavan, recommends the following formatting for your cover Letter.
Cover Letter Formatting
Block Format: Lines start at the left, no indentation. A line is skipped between paragraphs.
Begin with your return information: Name, address, city, state, zip. Then skip a line and put the date. Next skip a line, then put the company name and address. The salutation (greeting) is Dear Mr. Jones: with a colon.
Use Times New Roman 12 pt.
Here is where you will include the “letter” part of your letter. The purpose of your letter will be expressed here.
John Q. Smith
Enclosures: Resume, references, sample prints.
Don’t lose sight of the purpose of your cover letter to tell the employer why you want the job and why your resume proves you are right for it. A resume can only tell of your past, but a cover letter can tell of your future. Use your cover letter to bridge the gap between your background and the job at hand. Let the employer know why you want the job. This will show what research you have done on the company and that you are invested in them.
Many companies know that there are people out there sending out mass applications and resumes in attempt to get any job they want. It is with that in mind, that they look to find an easy way to separate those who put in extra time and effort into applying to their company. Many will do this by including a clear and simple instruction in the job description or posting details. These instructions range from something as simple as asking a potential applicant to send in their cover letter as a .pdf file or title their e-mail a certain way to asking a potential applicant to include an answer about their favorite thing about living in Los Angeles. These instructions divide people who are focused and invested in applying to their job and people who aren’t. Read instructions carefully and take your time.
This step is certainly a no-brainer. Read your cover letter several times with a different purpose. Read for “flow,” read it again for spelling, and read it again for punctuation. If you know you have difficulty with editing your own writing, seek out a friend or family member you trust to look over your cover letter. Even the simplest of mistakes can hurt your chances in landing a job.
As with everything you achieve, the more you put into a task, the more you can potentially get out of it. Take your time and really keep in mind the person potentially reading your cover letter. If you need any additional help, speak to an ORT advisor. We’re always here to assist when extra help is needed. Good luck in your search!