These steps will guide you through the process of writing a cover letter that conveys your passion, expertise, and integrity.
Writing cover letters can be a daunting task. We've broken down the letter into its component parts to hopefully make the job of writing clear, targeted cover letters easier. Many ways of organizing cover letters exist; here we provide one model for writing cover letters with impact.
What is a Cover Letter?
- A targeted, focused response to a specific job description.
- A key tool for communicating your "personal brand."
What is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?
- To get an interview.
- To communicate why you are the ideal candidate for the position.
- To communicate how you meet the specific requirements detailed in the job description.
- To communicate that hiring you would not be a risk.
Cover Letter Format
Your opening paragraph is an opportunity to communicate the highlights of your personal brand.
- As a strategic, collaborative marketing professional I have led teams to increase sales, revenues and profits for my previous employers. I want to bring the same success to the Marketing Manager position you have listed on your website.
- As an enthusiastic, creative Russian teaching professional, I have helped numerous students achieve their language learning goals. I want to bring this same enthusiasm and creativity to the Instructor position you have listed on the ACTFL website.
In the second paragraph, you will want to answer the question all employers will ask: “What have you done that I need done?”
This is where you tie your experience directly to the requirements outlined in the job description. It is important to be as specific as possible. If you write any general statements, be sure to back it up with an example or evidence for what you are saying.
In this paragraph you want to emphasize your ability to go “above and beyond.”
This is especially important in today’s economy where every organization needs to do more with less. Look for responsibilities in the job description that you have a particular expertise in and emphasize how you can help take the team or organization to the next level. Also look for information on the organization’s mission or objectives and tell the employer how you can contribute relative to those.
Emphasize any possibility where in hiring you the organization can get “2 for 1.” For example, if you can teach both French and English you would want to highlight that, even if the specific posting is for a French teacher.
In the fourth paragraph, you want to answer the question “Will you fit in here?”
At the end of the day, “fit” is often why you will be accepted or rejected for a position. If the job description has clues as to the kind of person they are looking for (e.g., enthusiastic, collaborative, etc.) you want to emphasize that you have those characteristics.
You also want to look at the organization’s mission, philosophy and/or values statements and communicate how well their mission/philosophy/values align with yours.
This is your final paragraph, so you want to develop a “power ending.”
If there is a choice between two equally qualified candidates, passion and enthusiasm will generally win out. In this paragraph, communicate passion, excitement and tell why you want this job at this organization.
Close with confidence. For example:
- I feel confident I can make a strong contribution to your team and I welcome the opportunity to discuss my fit and qualifications with you in greater detail. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
For more information about writing cover letters, contact your career and academic advisor.