Writing Your Professional Cover Letter

So you’ve graduated college, or maybe the finish line is finally in sight. Your resume is polished, perfected, and ready to go. What’s missing? Your professional cover letter, which goes hand-in-hand with that polished resume. A well-crafted cover letter is the key companion to your resume, and drafting an effective one is an important skill to learn. While it is typically not a requirement that you submit a cover letter in addition to your resume when applying for a job, in many cases your cover letter can help an employer get a more complete picture of you as a potential candidate and give you a chance to strengthen your appeal as a job candidate.

What’s the Point of a Cover Letter?

Your cover letter is, first and foremost, a way to introduce yourself and your resume to a hiring manager when seeking employment. It’s a space where employers can see how you compose yourself on paper or via email and a chance for you to initiate a working relationship with the employer. Another job of your cover letter is to explain and analyze the information listed on your resume. While you want to be careful not to repeat bullet for bullet, here’s your chance to list or explain awards or promotions you have received in the past that are relevant to the position you are applying for.

A cover letter is a place where you get to brag a little more – but not too much. Feel free to mention your being named to Dean’s List or getting promoted within two weeks of your internship, while making the hiring manager understand how those skills and qualifications will benefit you in this new position. Show the company that you will benefit them as much as working there would benefit you.

Tips and Tricks to Remember

1. Keep it brief, but make sure it does its job. If it is explicitly noted in a job advertisement that you should submit a cover letter, the hiring manager expects to see a traditional cover letter. Don’t exceed a few short paragraphs, but be sure to include all pertinent information.
2. Tailor it each time. For most positions for which you’ll apply, the duties will be at least a little bit different. Take a few minutes to tweak your cover letter to be sure it speaks directly to the position you’re applying for and the new company. You may want to highlight different skills or experience, and you’ll definitely want to refer to the company and position by name.
3. Follow a simple, traditional format. While the information will change, you can stick with a formulated structure. Open with a professional salutation, and take a few brief sentences to introduce yourself and summarize your education and experience. Next, discuss how your skills and experience will be an asset to the company and demonstrate a bit of understanding of the company and position. Close with a humble and professional request for an interview and reiterate your interest in and ability to work in the company. Don’t forget to proofread!

Though it is not always required that you send a cover letter, it is an extra effort on your part that shows the employer more about you. In a competitive market, why wouldn’t you take every measure you can to show a company why you are the best for the job?

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