A Good Cover Letter
The preliminary application for a professional position generally consists of two documents: a cover letter and a resume. This handout describes the cover letter; the resume is described in a separate Writing Center handout.
While the resume is a somewhat generic advertisement for yourself, the cover letter allows you to tailor your application to each specific job. Although the thrust of your various letters may remain the same, with the assorted text-processing options available at RPI-options that include find-and-replace and merging capabilities-there is really no reason to have a single, generic cover letter.
Effective cover letters are constructed with close attention to
Your cover letter and resume usually provide all the information which a prospective employer will use to decide whether or not you will reach the next phase in the application process: the interview.
While your goal is an interview and, ultimately, a job offer, the more immediate purpose of your cover letter in some cases may simply be to gain an attentive audience for your resume.
A cover letter provides, in a very real sense, an opportunity to let your prospective employer hear your voice. It reflects your personality, your attention to detail, your communication skills, your enthusiasm, your intellect, and your specific interest in the company to which you are sending the letter.
Therefore, c over letters should be tailored to each specific company you are applying to. You should conduct enough research to know the interests, needs, values, and goals of each company, and your letters should reflect that knowledge.
A cover letter should be addressed to the specific company and the specific individual who will process your application. You can usually find this through research or simply by calling the company to find out who you should address your letter to.
The letter should name the position for which you are applying and also make specific references to the company. Indicate your knowledge of and interest in the work the company is currently doing, and your qualification for the position. You want the reader to know:
- why you want to work at that specific company,
- why you fit with that company
- how you qualify for the position to which you applying.
In addition to tailoring your application to a specific job with a specific company , the cover letter should also
- highlight the most important and relevant accomplishments, skills, and experience listed in your resume
- point to the resume in some way (as detailed in the enclosed resume")
- request specific follow up, such as an interview.
A cover letter should be in paragraph form (save bulleted lists for your resume) with a conversational, though formal, tone.
The first paragraph should be brief, perhaps two or three sentences, stating
what job you are applying for and how you learned about it
any personal contacts you have in or with the company
your general qualifications for the job.
The body of your letter should consist of one to three longer paragraphs in which you expand upon your qualifications for the position. Pick out the most relevant qualifications listed in your resume and discuss them in detail, demonstrating how your background and experience qualify you for the job. Be as specific as possible, and refer the reader to your resume for additional details.
The concluding paragraph of your letter should request an interview (or some other response, as appropriate). State where and when you can be reached, and express your willingness to come to an interview or supply further information. Close by thanking your reader for his or her time and consideration.
What makes a Good Cover Letter?
- No spelling or typing errors. Not even one.
- Address it to the person who can hire you. Resumes sent to the personnel department have a tougher time of it. If you can find out (through networking and researching) exactly who is making the hiring decision, address the letter to that person. Be sure the name is spelled correctly and the title is correct. A touch of formality is good too: address the person as "Mr.," "Ms.," "Mrs.," "Miss," "Dr.," or "Professor." (Yes, life is complicated.)
- Write it in your own words so that it sounds like you - not like something out of a book.
- Being "natural" makes many people nervous. And then even more nervous because they are trying to avoid spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.
- Show that you know something about the company and the industry. This is where your research comes in. Don't go overboard--just make it clear that you didn't pick this company out of the phone book. You know who they are, what they do and you have chosen them!
- Use terms and phrases that are meaningful to the employer. (This is where your industry research and networking come in.) If you are applying for an advertised position, use the requirements in the ad and put them in BOLD type. For example: the ad says-- 2 years' experience processing magnetic media (cartridge, tape, disc); interface with benefit plan design, contracts and claims; and business background with strong analytical & technical skills--dBase, Excel, R&R, SQL."
Make sure your cover letter contains each of these requirements and shows how you measure up. To see sample and guidelines of Cover Letter.