The resume tends to get a lot of attention when it comes to the job application process. The cover letter, however, is just as important, if not more, in some ways. It’s often your first form of communication with the hiring manager of a position you want. Use the cover letter outline below as a guide to create an effective one for you.
What is a Cover Letter and Why Is It Important?
A cover letter is a letter that accompanies your resume. It serves a few important purposes, including:
- To introduce yourself
- To express your interest in the position
- To demonstrate that you understand the requirements of the position
- To show that you have researched the company
- To highlight your experience that relates to the position
- To sell yourself and your skills
It’s always a good idea to submit a cover letter to any position that you also submit your resume to. Hiring managers may receive many resumes, and the cover letter helps set you apart from other candidates.
Anatomy of an Effective Cover Letter Outline
Cover letters are typically structured and formatted in a consistent layout. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of an effective cover letter.
Similar to a resume, your contact information goes at the top of a cover letter. This ensures that if your cover letter and resume are separated, the company can identify what goes where. Placing your contact information, including your name, address, email address, and location, at the top of the cover letter format, also makes it easy for them to contact you for an interview.
Tip: Some people may choose to include their LinkedIn address along with their contact information. If you choose to do this, place it directly below your email address. Be sure to check that your LinkedIn and email addresses are professional before sharing them with potential employers.
Directly below your contact information, you’ll begin your cover letter by addressing its recipient. While using “Dear Hiring Manager” may be appropriate, using the formal name of the hiring manager is even better, if you have this information. Tracking down the name of the person responsible for hiring may require a little research.
Tip: You can learn the name of a hiring manager or contact via LinkedIn. You can also learn more about a company and its employees by visiting the business website.
The introduction or first paragraph of the cover letter, expresses your interest in the position, while also providing them with a little information on how you came across the job post. If you learned about the opening from a professional acquaintance, this is the place to discuss that. You may also discuss the specific job board or online database where you found the position.
Tip: Keep the introduction brief and to the point. Wait until later paragraphs to expand on your experience or skills that relate to the position. Be sure to also list the specific job title. Hiring managers may manage multiple openings at once, and this lets them know which position you’re inquiring about.
Once you have introduced yourself, use the second paragraph to provide a brief summary of the position and the skills you have that relate to it. You can use this paragraph to discuss one or two duties as listed in the job description. Provide a few details on how you have developed related skills, or where you have previously used them.
Tip: Consider the body of your cover letter to be your sales pitch. You want to sell the company on your skills, and this is your chance to pique their interest.
Use the third paragraph of the cover letter to continue discussing specific duties of the position, and your related skills. You might focus on a single duty and related skill in each paragraph, or provide a brief overview of your range of skills that are beneficial to the position.
Tip: Your cover letter may only include a few skills, depending on your level of professional experience. However, if you have many years of experience, it may span into a third paragraph. If you have many skills and are finding it difficult to choose a few to focus on, try to choose two to three of the top skills that most closely relate to the position.
The conclusion is your opportunity to highlight any skills or experiences that you want to stand out. You might also use this section to discuss culture and how you fit in with the company’s culture. In addition to choosing candidates with the right experience, many hiring managers also want to choose someone that fits in with the company’s culture.
Tip: You can learn more about a company’s culture in their about us section on their website or by searching for recent news. Look for any charitable organizations or events that the company participates in to find common ground. This not only shows that you’ll fit in with the current team members, but also that you have done your research and that you’re interested in the position.
Call To Action/Closing
Concluding your cover letter with a call to action encourages the hiring manager to take action, whether that action is to review your resume, or to contact you for an interview. Thank the hiring manager for taking the time to read your resume and encourage them to call or email you with any questions.
Tip: Sign off with a professional signature and your full name. If sending a hard copy, sign your legal name at the bottom. If sending a digital copy, type out your full name at the bottom.
Learn more about how to write an unforgettable cover letter closing.
This layout allows you to briefly demonstrate your interest in a position, while also highlighting your relevant work experience. This format is an effective approach to a cover letter for a resume, whether you’re submitting a digital or hardcopy cover letter.
Quick Tips When Creating a Cover Letter
Here are a few quick tips you can use when creating a cover letter:
- Customize each cover letter to the position: Because no two companies are the same, it’s important to customize each cover letter to the position. This allows you to connect the skills and experience you have to the specific requirements and expectations of that position.
- Be specific and concise: A cover letter is designed to be a brief introduction into your experience and skills. Keep the cover letter to one page or less, and use the resume to expand further on any important details.
- Match the design and layout of your resume: Matching the font and design of your resume provides a consistent look between your resume and cover letter.
- Take the time to thank the hiring manager: Hiring managers may go through hundreds of applications for a single position. Be sure to thank them for taking the time to read your cover letter, and potentially your resume.
- Proofread: Always proofread your cover letter before sending it. Spelling or grammatical errors can be distracting and may prevent the hiring manager from reviewing your resume.
- Do your research: A well-researched cover letter is always appreciated and preferred over a generic one. Take the time to do your research about the company and understand the position, who’s hiring for it, and how you can add value to the company. Use these points to capture their attention, increasing your chances of landing an interview.
The ultimate goal of a cover letter is to capture the hiring manager’s attention and encourage them to open your resume. The cover letter is one of the first steps toward landing that dream interview. Taking the time to draft an effective cover letter that truly expresses your interest and reviewing cover letter examples can help get you to the next step in the hiring process.