How to Write a Cover Letter

Starting a job search can be stressful and time consuming. Between shopping around, putting together an application, and then waiting anxiously to see if you’ve been selected for an interview, the process can seem really daunting, especially if you haven’t had much practice. For some, cover letters can be especially difficult, so I’ve put together this guide to hopefully make writing a cover letter seem a little less scary.

 

 

Read the job description carefully (and then read it again)

The purpose of a cover letter is to give an employer more information about you, and in doing so, give your resume some more context. The best cover letters make clear connections between the job description and your resume. It is your chance to prove that you are qualified for the position and have relevant experience. Don’t be afraid to drop keywords from the posting right into your cover letter; not only will this show that you read and paid attention to what they wanted from applicants, but it can also help your application get through applicant tracking systems.

You might have a cover letter template that you use as a starting point, but each time you apply for a job, your cover letter should be tailored to that posting. Pro tip: you should to doing this for resumes, too. Although your resume isn’t going to change as much from application to application as your cover letter, you should still try your best to highlight your most relevant skills.

 

Use concrete examples

While writing cover letters can be a drag, they are a great opportunity for you to show how you, specifically, are a good candidate for the job. When employers ask for applicants with particular skills, give them actual examples of when you used these skills. When possible, try to touch on everything that is mentioned in the job description. For example, if a job description mentions that applicants need to have project management skills and leadership experience, don’t write “I have held many leadership positions which required me to manage a number of projects.”

Instead, write “In my position at Company X, I was in charge of a team of six people working to design an improved mapping system. My job was to lead weekly progress meetings, assign and follow up on tasks, and write a proposal to my manager outlining the mapping system the team created.”

 

Follow an outline

Cover letters should be concise and engaging. If your letter is unorganized and hard to follow, chances are the hiring manager won’t even read to the end. Before you start writing, jot down everything you want to cover, and your letter will pretty much write itself! It depends which job field you’re applying to, but your outline might look something like this:

  • Part One: Introduction, the position you are applying for, your level and location of education, and why you are interested in the position.

  • Part Two: What you will bring to the position (this is your chance to highlight your skills by providing specific examples and utilizing those keywords).

  • Part Three: Thank the reader for their time and specify the best way in which to contact you.

 

Make sure you’ve covered the basics

Now that you’re done writing, it’s time to proofread, proofread, proofread. Is everything in the same font? Have you double checked for grammar errors? Is everything spelt correctly (especially the name of the employer)? Have you provided your contact information?

Make a checklist of everything you need to do before you send in your application. Go through your letter systematically. You don’t want to be passed over for a job you really want, and that you’re qualified for, just because of a stupid mistake.

And when you’ve finished your checklist and think you’re all done—read it over one last time.

If you want extra help writing cover letters and resumes, or want assistance with any part of the job search process, check out the university’s Career Services. These services are open to all students and alumni, so you’ll have access to these resources for life.

 

I wish you luck in all of your cover-letter-writing endeavours. And remember, if you don’t get this job, there are lots of other opportunities out there.