Write the Best Cover Letter Ever
Posted on Tuesday, March 7th, 2017
What’s the deal with cover letters? Are they necessary? Should you use a template? If the employer doesn’t specify they want one, should you even bother?
The answer, of course, is yes. You should bother. In fact, you need to bother. It’s so easy to shoot off a resume to every single possible job being advertised, and employers know that. By taking the time to craft an excellent cover letter, you prove to employers that you truly care.
Think of your cover letter as your first impression to a potential employer. It is the first chance you have to separate yourself from the crowd and make a positive impression on your future boss. It’s a way of showing yourself to be a well-rounded human, more than a list of work experience and skills (that’s what your resume is for).
Employers are also crazy busy. By having a beautiful, well-written cover letter, you’ll catch their eye. You want to make sure your cover letter is really standout.
[Algonquin co-op students: Module Three in your Co-op 1000 Blackboard course has all this information and more! Be sure to read your modules before applying to co-op jobs.]
Set Up Your Letter
The first thing you always need to do is carefully read the entire job description. Employers sometimes have very specific expectations for your cover letter, resume, and overall application. They may require you to include certain information in your cover letter. If you don’t follow those instructions, your application is going in the trash.
It is tempting to get fancy with cover letters, but remember that you want to make it as easy as possible for employers to read. Date the letter, address it to the hiring manager by name, use a clear 12-point font, and keep your whole letter to four short paragraphs. Remember: presentation matters. Keep it professional.
Now you know what the employer expects from you. It’s time to start writing your cover letter.
Paragraph 1: Introduce Yourself
Your first paragraph should be a quick introduction of yourself. You want to answer the employer’s immediate questions: who you are, where you come from, and how you found their job posting.
It can be as simple as, “My name is __ and I’m in the __ program at Algonquin College. I’m interested in the position of __ that you are currently advertising at __.
[Important note for Algonquin co-op students: do not say that you found the job on HireAC. Employers don’t know what that is. Instead, tell them that you found the position through the Algonquin College Cooperative Education Department.]
Paragraph 2: Sell Yourself
The best way to look at your cover letter is as a marketing tool for yourself. It’s how you show the employer that you are the best person for the job.
How do you do this?
The first step is to read the job description very carefully and make a list of all the skills and requirements the posting indicates. Then, take a look at your work/school/volunteer history. You want to draw a correlation between the work that you’ve already done, and the work that you’re applying to.
This is more than just listing jobs you’ve done. Draw out the specific skills and experiences you’ve had that make you capable of doing the work the potential employer is advertising. For example, don’t just say that you worked retail; instead, explain how you increased sales, how you learned leadership skills, how your time management improved, or how your communication skills developed.
This is why it’s so important to individually tailor each cover letter to the specific job you are applying for. Each job is going to list particular skills, and you need to make sure that your cover letter matches up.
Paragraph 3: Flattery
Google the company you’re applying to and find their ‘about’ page. Head over to news.google.com and search the company name to see what the press is saying. Research, research, research, and find some strong, viable reasons why the prospect of working for that company excites you.
Including a section about the company shows the employer that you really care about this position and that you took the time to do your research. Companies want employees that are enthusiastic about their work, so take a couple of sentences to explain what excites you about the organization.
Paragraph 4: Reiterate
Your final ‘paragraph’ should really just be a sentence. Think of it as a thesis statement. Repeat once again why you, and only you, are perfectly suited for the position. Thank the employer for their time. Sign off with ‘sincerely’ and your name. Easy, right?
Proofread to Infinity and Beyond
Guys, we talk about this a lot, but it’s very important: employers will throw out your application if they find typos or errors.
Do not reply on spellcheck, either. Have someone you trust review your cover letter. Even try reading it aloud: this will help you understand if your sentences are flowing well together. Proofread, and then proofread again.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to having a fantastic cover letter.
Algonquin co-op students: want some extra help writing your cover letter? Contact the co-op office today to set up an appointment with your consultant. Visit our website at http://www.algonquincollege.com/coop/, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 613-727-4723 Ext.7623.
A cover letter is a letter that accompanies and introduces your résumé to demonstrate how your skills and experience match the employer's needs. Use a cover letter when you're:
- applying to a posted position
- submitting your résumé to an organization that is not currently hiring (in this case, it’s sometimes called a “letter of introduction” or a “prospecting letter”)
- applying for graduate school, a co-op program, an internship, a scholarship, etc.
You should put together a specific cover letter for each position you're applying to. This shows you've put in the effort to tailor your application and makes it easier for the employer to see how you fit their specific needs.
What to include
Include information like specific competencies, credentials, experiences and accomplishments.
Responding to a job posting
- Identify the organization, spectific position and, if possible, the specific individual to whom you are addressing the letter
- Speak to the requirements of the position (look at the posting and outline how your experience matches the criteria)
- Describe how your experience and competencies will benefit the organization (if you have no direct experience, highlight your transferable experience)
Introduction or prospecting letter
- Identify the type of position you’re interested in and explain how you know to contact them
- Outline how your experience and competencies will bring value
- Indicate when and how you’re going to follow up
See our Cover letter basicsresource for a take-away version.
How to structure your cover letter
Every cover letter is different, but this is a suggested structure. See our What does a cover letter look like? resource for a visual breakdown of content and structure.
- State your purpose and why you're applying
- List the job title and organization name
- Show that you’ve researched the organization by referencing its mission/vision statement
- Indicate your enthusiasm and state what you’ll bring to the organization
- Use an active voice and group information around the job requirements (e.g. your organizational skills)
- Avoid starting every sentence with “I”
- Use transition phrases (e.g. "additionally", "also")
- Give solid, specific examples of your past experience and the competencies you bring to the organization
- Thank the employer for their consideration
- Cover any “add-ons” (e.g. criminal record check, age limit, citizenship/residency, driver’s license)
- Provide your contact information (if applicable)
- Restate your interest in the position and express interest in an interview
Writing your cover letter
- Deconstruct the job posting
- Assess the needs of the organization and how you can bring value
- Write your first draft—you can use our Cover letter checklist or samples below for help
- Get feedback and make revisions
- Proofread and submit your cover letter