The modern standards for applying for an open position often have candidates overlooking the need for a solid cover letter.  While many applications don’t specifically require a standalone document, a brief two-three paragraph introduction to your experience, qualifications and candidacy could make the difference when busy hiring managers are perusing countless applicants.  A cover letter provides a valuable synopsis of just what you have to offer to a potential employer. Want to catch the attention of a prospective employer and stand out from the crowd? Below we have some helpful tips for crafting a solid cover letter to accentuate your resume submission.

Format

Sure, you may be the type that likes to buck the system, but the format of your cover letter should stick to tried and true formats and procedures.  To start, stick to accepted letter addressing format. In the upper left hand corner, include the name, address and other relevant contact details of the hiring manager, company representative or other primary contact for the position listing.  If you’re looking for a breakdown of the information in this section, the format of the address and salutation should include:

  • Your Name
  • Your Street Address
  • City, State Zip Code
  • Telephone Number
  • E-mail Address
  • Mr./Ms./Dr. Their Name
  • Title
  • Name of Company
  • Street or P. O. Box Address
  • City, State Zip Code

If the contact information for the hiring manager isn’t provided in the job listing, consider doing some independent research.  A quick google search will most likely find you the contact details you need.

If you can’t find an address, placing the name of the prospective employer  along with a “Hiring Manager” or “ To Whom it May Concern” salutation certainly won’t be looked at poorrly.

Need a few more formatting tips for your cover letter?  Remember to use standardized font and styles throughout your resume.  Keep a consistent type size and a classic times new roman, arial or other commplace typset.  Avoid fancy colors and styling and be sure to check and double check your organization and spelling.  Ensuring no obvious mistakes is a surefire way to keep your resume at the top of any prospects list.

Introduction

The introduction section of your cover letter should be a single paragraph, three to five sentences in length.  In today’s hectic and fast paced job market hiring managers often don’t have time to review more than several sentences of an individual candidate cover letter.  This makes your introductory section all the more important.

Each sentence of your introduction should be short, communicative and impactful. Start with an introductory sentence that highlights your skills and experience.  The next sentence should ideally focus on what you have to offer the specific position. Add in a sentence or two that ties all of these aspects together and focuses on what you have to bring to the job and you have a solid introduction paragraph.

In your cover letter, the introduction will set the tone, so make sure it captures the attention of the reader and that it showcases your identity. Additionally, it will state your intentions both short term and long term for your career.  Capture the attention of your reader and express the reasons you and you alone are the best choice for a given opening and you’ll have crafted an effective and comprehensive introduction section.

Body

Unlike college essay papers, the body of your cover letter should be short, sweet and to the point.  This is the section where you can really let your experience and applicable skills shine. Using active verbs, talk about your accomplishments in past positions and why these particular experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position at hand.  These real world examples are critical for helping businesses picture just how you will be a contributing force to the new company.

The body of your cover letter should be no more than one or two very short paragraphs in length.  In this section, your sentences should focus on individual accomplishments. Instead of describing yourself as an “experienced sales manager” detail how in your previous position you “successfully managed a team of ten salespeople to achieving month over month sales goals for a period of 18 months”.  Be sure to end with a sentence or two about how the lessons learned in your prior position will aid in you contribution at the new job for maximum impact and demonstration of value.

Conclusion

Much like the previous sections, your conclusion section of your cover letter should be no more than a paragraph in length.  Here you will wrap up in three to five sentences, your desire for the given position and your view that your skills and experience makes you the ideal candidate.  Close with an invitation to reach out for additional information and an excitement to begin in the position at hand to help sell you candidacy.

Proofread and Review

Before sending any resume, cover letter or application off to a prospective employer, be sure to review for potential typos or formatting errors.  Asking one or more trusted friends and professional confidants to give your document a once over will also help ensure uniformity and proper presentation of your candidacy.

As far as general considerations go, even when the position doesn’t specifically call for the document, a cover letter is never a bad idea to help set you apart from the applicant crowd.  Most employers will allow optional attachments such as cover letters, to your employment application. Even when you may think the document redundant, a cover letter is an excellent method for showcasing your writing and communication skills.

Long story short, spend some time crafting a quality cover letter as a staple document in your job search arsenal.  Having one to present in a pinch just might make the difference between a dear john letter and an invitation to an interview or job offer.

Cover Letter Writing 101