While many people think of resumes and traditional job applications as the primary sources of information companies use to make hiring decisions, cover letters can also be beneficial for both applicants and employers alike. Although many positions do not require a cover letter to apply, its inclusion can help one applicant stand out from the crowd. Cover letters help hiring managers determine which candidates are the best fit for the job or company, because they provide a snapshot of how each candidate’s professional skills, experience and education directly relate to a particular position. Although writing an effective cover letter does not guarantee someone will land their dream job, understanding how to properly format and write a cover letter may drastically improve their chances of future career success.
Jonathan Osler points out the very first step to correctly formatting and writing a cover letter is to create a header. The header should include the date, applicant’s name, phone number, email address, physical address and any other relevant contact or personal information an employer can use to follow up with the applicant when necessary. An applicant should also include any relevant information about the company or position within the header such as the name and job title of the person receiving the letter, the name of the company and the company‘s address.
Once the header has been correctly formatted, it’s time to start writing the cover letter. Every cover letter should begin with a greeting, and the greeting should be properly addressed to whoever is responsible for reading it. The most commonly used greetings for professional cover letters are “hello” and “dear.” Regardless of which greeting word is chosen, it should be followed by either a proper name or job title depending on what information is known about the recipient. For example, “Hello James Jackson,” or “Dear Hiring Manager.”
According to Jonathan Osler, the next step in properly crafting a cover letter is to write the body of the letter. The body of every cover letter should have an introductory paragraph, one or two middle paragraphs and a closing paragraph. In the introductory paragraph, applicants should briefly state which job they are applying for, where they heard or read about the opening, why they are interested in the job/company and their primary qualifications. The middle paragraph(s) should expand on the opening paragraph by providing specific reasons why the applicant believes they are the right fit for the job alongside examples of recent experience, achievements and education relevant to the position. A great way to enhance the middle paragraph is to use keywords from the job description throughout the text. The closing paragraph should be a summary of why the applicant is interested and why he or she believes they are the right person for the role. The proper sign off for a cover letter typically includes thanking the reader for their consideration, how the applicant looks forward to hearing back about the job and a proper send off with the applicant’s signature.