How to write a cover letter? Many wonder if writing a cover letter to be submitted alongside a resume is even important. The answer is that it certainly is because while your resume explains ‘the what” in terms of your professional history, the cover letter addresses “the how.”
There are several great ways to elaborate on your standing as a candidate. Responding to the job description includes speaking to your work experiences and elaborating on your achievements. If you still wondering how to write a cover letter, this piece will break up the format of a cover letter into five key components to help you get started. Here’s how to write a cover letter:
Opening Paragraph: Introduction
The first thing that either hooks the hiring manager or diverts their interest is the introductory paragraph. Intriguing the hiring manager with the initial few sentences of your cover letter will decide whether he or she is interested in reading the rest of it. For that reason, this is the most crucial part of a cover letter to get right.
The introduction should be used to capture the attention of the reader in three pertinent sentences:
- A sentence that illustrates your awareness of the company.
- A sentence that presents your experience in a detailed and contextual manner.
- A sentence which states the value you would bring to the company.
To illustrate, let’s take a look at a bad example of a cover letter introduction:
My name is Cailee Keys and I am writing this cover letter to express my interest in a LinkedIn listing for a digital marketing position. I feel that my digital marketing background, as well as social media, qualifies me as a great fit for this role.
An introductory paragraph like that is more likely to generate yawns than genuine interest from the hiring manager. Let’s face it, this intro is just boring. It does not tell the hiring manager anything new or valuable, just that you are applying for a job. When writing an introduction, ask yourself what fresh and valuable information you are actually communicating to the hiring manager.
Let’s now look at a much better introductory paragraph for the cover letter.
I have been a great admirer of [Company name] since its impressive debut in the [Industry], and I was thrilled when I saw a Brand Strategist position open. I have spent the last three years working on crafting and expanding the messaging for [current employer] through social awareness and targeted CEO. I would love the opportunity to communicate your phenomenal story to the masses.
This version is a better, multipronged approach. It kicks off with a compliment, which is something that immediately appeals to most people. There is a certain psychological effect that draws us to continue through something that has started on a positive note. This same phenomenon makes us like the person who delivered the compliment right away. The next part communicates where we are currently working and the tools we use in our current position.
Not only does this drop the facts about your current position, but it also alludes to your skill sets. Finally, the last sentence in the paragraph communicates your desire, intent, and plans moving forward. This illustrates to the hiring manager that you have essentially placed yourself in the shoes of someone performing the role, and have a solid game plan for how you would operate in the desired position.
Second Paragraph: Why You’re The Person They Need
Once the introduction is out of the way, you will feel more emboldened about writing the rest of the cover letter. The introduction didn’t just introduce who you are and establish the value you could deliver, it also lays the groundwork for you to expand who you are. Think of the resume as Cliff’s Notes version of your work history, experiences, positions, and dates of employment. The second paragraph of the cover letter will help to expand on those aspects.
- What big impact projects have you been a part of?
- What leadership have you established to help in growth initiatives?
- How have you adapted to changing roles or promotions?
- What were your assigned responsibilities?
- What invaluable skills do you possess?
Try to think of those points when crafting this paragraph, instead of describing what your day to day activities were in great detail.
Third Paragraph: Why You Feel The Company Is Your Perfect Fit
Now that the company knows about who you are and what you have done, it’s time to explain why they are the company you are interested in.
- Have you been following the company for a long time and have been impressed with them?
- Do you use their products?
- Have you been keeping up with them in the press?
First, explain what draws you to the company and why you are impressed with them overall. Then provide, from your own perspective what you can specifically deliver for them. Maybe you have a concrete idea that you can hint at here. This will intrigue them and make the hiring manager wonder if you do in fact hold some good, valuable knowledge that can help the company.
If you have noticed that your cover letter is shaping up to be a classically constructed three-paragraph essay, you’re right, and it’s by design. The closing paragraph will summarize the main points of your cover letter, restate them concisely and draw a tight conclusion.
This is where you will offer up your services to the company and express to the hiring manager that you would love to be considered for the position. Pick a point from earlier in the cover letter and state that you would love to share some thoughts on something they might need help with given your past experience. You have now explained your value, and this is the point of the cover letter that you will offer it to the hiring manager.
Add a little extra to the letter with a little P.S. at the end. It can and should just be a tidbit or a detail about yourself, or you can simply emphasize how enthusiastic and excited you are for the opportunity to work for this company.
While the resume is more of a collective of greatest hits, the cover letter contextualizes them and adds detail. The P.S. can be one more chance to really catch the hiring manager’s attention once more. Until that is, they call you in for an interview.
Now you know how to write a cover letter; by breaking your cover letter into logical sections as described, getting it written will be a simple exercise. Good luck!