No job application is complete without a cover letter. Do you know the best format or how to catch a hiring manager’s attention? Consider these cover letter tips!
What You Should Include in Your Cover Letter
What To Include in a Cover Letter
Looking to find a new job? Whether you’re applying in person or via an online portal like LinkedIn you will need a great cover letter. These documents are of the utmost importance when it comes to a successful job search because they offer a unique opportunity to speak directly to the hiring manager. This article will tell you: - What a cover letter is - What you should include in a cover letter - The basic structure of a cover letter
What Is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a business letter that should be included with a resume. The purpose of this kind of document is twofold. Firstly, it should address the recruiter directly to give them a sense of who you are as a candidate. Secondly, it should be a supplementary document that provides context or additional information that explains why you’re the best fit for the job. The basic guidelines for cover letter formats are much the same as any other professional correspondence. You should have .5 to 1-inch margins all around and use professional, legible fonts such as Arial or Calibri in 10-point to 12-point sizes.
What You Need To Include in Your Cover Letter
When you start writing your cover letter you should have a copy of the job description and your resume in front of you. This preparatory step is key because it will help you write a cover letter that is relevant to the specific position you are applying for without just regurgitating information from your resume. The types of information you should include in a cover letter are:
- Key achievements
- Prestigious job titles
- Strong or valuable skills
- What you can do to help the company reach their goals
- The value you feel you bring to the table
If you want to get inspiration for the kinds of achievements and experiences to include, consider relevant cover letter examples via the ResumeNerd website. These examples from successful job seekers provide great inspiration!
The Structure of a Generic Cover Letter
No matter what information you include in your cover letter, it should have this basic structure:
Header and salutation
At the top of your cover letter, you should have a header that includes your full name, address, phone number, and contact information. You can also include your professional portfolio link (such as LinkedIn) if you feel it will be helpful.
Directly below your header, you should include a professional salutation. Ideally, this should greet a specific person. You should aim to use the hiring manager’s name, but if you cannot find it or the hiring manager is a team of human resources professionals, you can use a general professional greeting such as:
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear HR
- Dear Hiring Team
If you choose to refer to the name of the hiring manager with the “Dear Mr./Dear Mrs.” format, you should name the right person. It is better to err on the side of caution and use a professional, general greeting if you are unsure of the recruiter’s name or gender.
Your first paragraph should provide an introduction to you as a job seeker. Provide information that shows you are qualified and capable. For example, if you were writing a project management cover letter you might say:
I’m a Yale graduate with a double major in project management and graphic design. This dual focus has proven invaluable in my 10-year career as it allows me to bring clients’ creative visions to life more effectively.
This example does three things right: it shows the job seeker has formal qualifications, indicates their unique selling point, and underlines how their experience can be valuable in a practical sense. You should also state which job posting you are applying for and use the company name in your opening paragraph. This will help you to rank well in applicant tracking systems (ATS).
Key experience and achievements
Your second paragraph, and potentially your third paragraph, should include information about some of your most notable achievements and relevant experiences. Think about what will be most relevant to the job posting you are applying for. You don’t have to limit yourself to work experience, however, you can also discuss volunteer work, relevant coursework, and even internships.
Elements that will help you fit into the company culture
Look at the company website when writing your middle paragraphs and show that you are the kind of person who can fit in with the wider company culture. This is the perfect point to reiterate soft skills, such as active listening and conflict resolution.
Call to action and closing
Your final paragraph should bring the cover letter to a tidy close and include a call to action that prompts the hiring manager to reach out and arrange an interview (e.g., “I look forward to speaking with you)”). Once you have done this, use a professional sign-off, such as “Sincerely,” and sign your full name.
Remember to proofread your cover letter before sending it. Typos are an easy way to lose a hiring manager's interest. Finally, consider using matching resume and cover letter templates to give your application a professional appearance.
FAQ: What To Include in a Cover Letter
You should not include any information that has already been listed in your resume unless you are expanding upon it. If you just repeat information, you will lose a recruiter's interest very quickly. Likewise, you should not give any information about your private life or include information that is related to protected classes such as age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Finally, do not include a photograph. Many companies discard job applications that include such information as a matter of policy to prevent lawsuits.
Use active language (e.g., “managed,” “implemented”) and provide specific examples. For instance, if you want to prove you have project management skills, give an example of a time you successfully managed a project. Give trackable metrics if you can, such as “I managed two projects for [xyz], both of which finished on time and under budget by more than 15%.”
A cover letter should ideally be between half a page and three-quarters of a page in length, but you can use up to one full page if needed. Consider using the ResumeNerd cover letter builder to make the process easier. It has a range of great templates to choose from.