After you’ve put together an interview-worthy professional resume, you may need a cover letter to introduce that resume to a prospective employer. Like the resume, a cover letter is a formal job search communication, so it is absolutely critical that you check and recheck your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and content to make sure that you identify and correct all writing errors. Your attention to detail is vital! Unlike the resume, which is meant to be quickly skimmed to identify your key skills and experience, the cover letter is a correspondence that is meant to be read and comprehended, so you should use full paragraphs of text instead of simple bullet points.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Choose a professional format. Use either block style or modified block. In other words, all text should be aligned along the left margin or your contact information and your signature should be indented four inches on the page, with the rest of your text aligned along the left margin.
Your header (contact information) should include your name, address, phone number, and email address. When applying to a U.S. employer, remember to use proper U.S. postal abbreviations for all mailing addresses.
After your contact information, leave one line of blank space, then add the date in proper date format. Some writers have taken to adding superscript characters (for example, October 1st instead of October 1). This is not grammatically correct, and it is especially important that you do not violate formal grammar rules in a job-search communication.
After the date, leave one line of blank space, then add the recipient’s contact information. This will typically include the individual’s name and title, the company name, and the company’s address.
After the contact information, leave one line of blank space, then write your greeting. This is typically, “Dear ” where can include the person’s title (Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr.) or the person’s full name. If an individual’s name is not known, you may use the company’s name or simply “To Whom It May Concern.”
Finally, you are ready for the body of your letter, where the important information is given. Body text is single-spaced, but you may choose to add one additional space between body paragraphs.
Begin by stating what position you are applying for and possibly where you learned of the position. For example, “I am applying for the Director of Communications position advertised in your monster.com ad #xxxxxxx….” Traditionally, writers have used more polite language like “I am writing to apply for…” or “I would like to apply for…” but these are what are known as “empty phrases” because the language does not add to the specific content of the message, though it does add a polite tone. If the reader is reading your message, he or she obviously knows that you were writing. Saying that you would like to do something essentially means that while you want to do it, for some reason you either cannot or will not do so. In the case of a cover letter, you are asking permission of the reader to be considered for the position, but you don’t have to tell that to the reader.
After identifying which position you are applying for, refer to your enclosed resume. For example, “…and have enclosed my resume for your review.”
In the next paragraph(s), make a connection between your skills and experience and the position’s needs and responsibilities. For example, “As my resume indicates, I am currently pursuing an xxx degree in xxx at California Southern University, with an anticipated graduation date of Month Year. In addition to my college experience, I am currently employed by xxx as xxx. In this position, I am responsible for x, y, and z.”
Use transitional language to lead your reader from one job to the next. “Prior to my work with xxx, I was an xxx for for
After you have presented all of your key information, close your letter and always remember to thank your reader. For example, “Thank you for your time and consideration.” I suggest placing the “thanks” on a line by itself to add additional emphasis to the message.
Finally, depending on whether you are using block or modified block format, add your closure and signature. For block style, align your text lines on the left margin. For modified block, indent the text to 4 inches.
After you are satisfied with the content of your letter, always remember to go back and proofread at least once more to identify and correct any writing or content errors.
Good luck on securing an interview!