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Top 7 Tips for Writing a Kick-Ass Cover Letter

Cover Letters

Posted by Pamela Skillings

Once you have researched employment opportunities, made a list of positions you would like to apply for, and perfected your resume, the next step is fine-tuning your cover letter before sending it to prospective employers.

Cover letters provide the opportunity to elaborate on job skills and past employment experiences listed on your resume, show off your writing ability (something important to nearly all employers), and make yourself stand out among other applicants vying for the same position.

Here are seven tips to write a kick-ass cover letter, and beat the unemployment blues:

Cover Letter Tip 1

Each time you submit a cover letter to an employer, revise the letter to make it specific to the position and company. Highlight job skills, traits and past work experience most relevant to the position at hand.

This means going beyond inserting the name of the company and a few detailed sentences into a previously written letter.

Employers recognize when job applicants have sent a stock cover letter, and when they’ve written a unique one (especially when you forget to change the name of the company, telling Company A how interested you are in the available position at Company B).

Avoid this recipe for how not to get an interview. Draft a custom cover letter for each position for which you apply.

Cover Letter Tip 2

Follow the format of a business letter. This means including contact information at the top (name, address, phone number, email), followed by the date, a formal greeting, well-organized body paragraphs, and a formal closing.

Text should be right justified and double-spaced between paragraphs. Keep the length to one page.

Proofread the letter. Have someone else proofread for you. Edit, revise and repeat as necessary. Don’t ruin your first impression with a stupid mistake.

Cover Letter Tip 3

Try your best to address the cover letter to an actual person, rather than “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern.” Addressing the letter to a specific person makes it more personal, and more likely to be read than placed in a pile in the HR office (or worse, stashed in a computer file, and out of physical sight).

You may be able to find out the name of the person who will be reading your cover letter by checking the job posting, asking the person who told you about the position, or contacting the company’s HR department.

Cover Letter Tip 4

To begin the body of your cover letter, the first paragraph should detail what position you are applying for and how you learned of the opportunity.

Briefly explain how your skills and background make you a qualified candidate for the position. Express your enthusiasm for the company and why you are interested in the position.

Cover Letter Tip 5

In the opening paragraph, don’t be afraid to mention someone you know at the company who may be able to act as a personal or professional reference, especially if you learned of the job opportunity through this person.

Be sure to ask your contact if it’s all right to drop his or her name in the letter, and if so, keep the explanation of your relationship concise (i.e. I learned of the opportunity through a former colleague John Doe, the current vice-president of communications). This will allow your reader to contact the person for a reference if desired.

It always helps to know someone on the inside, and a good referral (with a solid resume and cover letter) often leads to an interview.

Cover Letter Tip 6

In the second paragraph, explain how you meet the required skills and qualifications of the position. Utilize the job description and company profile provided in the posting or by the person who informed you of the opportunity. Elaborate on points in your resume, but don’t be repetitive.

Some companies use software that searches for specific keywords within your cover letter (and resume) to discover the applicants with the most desired skills — and weed out those without them.

Reading the job posting carefully will allow you to pick and choose keywords and phrases used by the company, which will garner your cover letter more hits and improve the chances that a human being will read your letter, and not just a computer system.

Cover Letter Tip 7

Conclude the letter with a thank you and express your interest in hearing from the reader soon regarding the status of your application. Communicate the best way to reach you, by phone or email.

If mailing the cover letter, sign and type your full name. If emailing, the likely method, you may send the cover letter in the body of the email or in an attachment. Use simple text and remove the formatting when sending the letter in the email’s body.

Always review the job posting carefully for directions on the preferred method of submitting your application materials. In the email’s subject line, include your full name and the position for which you are applying.

Last Thoughts

Now that you’ve written and revised your cover letter, and just clicked “Send,” give the employer at least two weeks to reply. Companies often receive dozens, even hundreds, of cover letters for one position and may not respond for weeks, months or at all.

If a good amount of time passes, and the employer hasn’t responded to one or more follow up emails, it’s likely that the company is not interested. Just don’t get down on yourself.

There are a multitude of reasons why the employer may not have contacted you (a subpar cover letter may or may not be a factor). Try to improve your cover letter, and sell yourself better next time.

On the other hand, if you follow these tips, you may end up getting a call for an interview and find out your cover letter was pretty kick-ass after all.

Also, check out our in-depth guide with many cover letter examples.

Also, enjoy this funny cover letter from Reddit. 50/50 on whether it’s real, but who cares.

Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

Make a great impression with a properly formatted cover letter

A properly formatted cover letter attached to your resume is a great way to show a prospective employer that you are interested in the job being offered—a cover letter may even give you a valuable advantage over other candidates.

Whether you fill out an official application provided by the employer or you are asked to send in a resume, we recommend taking the time to write a cover letter.

Remember, in addition to your resume, a cover letter is the first impression that a prospective employer will have of you—make it a good one!

Take time to present yourself professionally on paper

It is generally good practice to use a standard business letter format. Remaining within the one-page maximum, your letter should be printed on basic, white, letter-size paper and typed in a business-style font such as Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial, usually in an 11- or 12-point size. Regardless of the industry in which you seek employment, we suggest avoiding fancy colors or lettering, as this may appear unprofessional.

Remember that you want to encourage the prospective employer to review your resume with the mindset that you are a professional; you do not want him or her to be deterred by an overly casual approach.

How to format a cover letter

When you are formatting your cover letter, remember that you must include a header, an introduction, the body, and a closing. These sections can be separated into individual paragraphs. Looking at cover letter examples can sometimes help in the process of creating a properly formatted cover letter.

Header

At the top of the letter, include your name and complete mailing address; leave some space, then add the recipient's name, title (if any), and complete mailing address. Add the current date as a separate line.

For example:

Jane Doe
123 Spruce Avenue
Anytown, MI 12345

 

John Smith, Human Resources Manager
Acorn Merchandising
456 Maple Way
Anytown, MI 67890

 

23 June 2009

Following this, include a reference section (for example, RE: technical position at ABC Company). You may also wish to indicate by what means your letter was delivered, i.e., Via Fax, In Person, etc., again on a separate line.

Next, add your opening salutation; for example:

Dear Mr. Choi:

or

Dear Hiring Managers:

Please note that a full colon is placed after the name or title and not a comma, which is used only in casual writing.

Introduction

This section should briefly indicate the position for which you are applying; here, you can also thank the employer for an earlier conversation you may have had with him or her regarding the position or indicate how you heard about the position (i.e., from a website, a newspaper ad, etc.).

Body

Here, you will list your qualifications, experience, and any specific points of note, such as availability. You should also highlight your skills and characteristics as they pertain to the position. This part of the cover letter is all about showing the employer what you have to offer and why you're the right candidate for the job. Learn more about what to include in your letter with How to Write a Letter, an ebook available now on Amazon.

Closing

In the closing of your cover letter, thank the employer for his or her time in reviewing your application. You should also mention that you look forward to discussing the position in more detail with the employer in the near future. Ask him or her to "contact you at the number (or numbers) listed below," which will be placed after your signature at the bottom of the page.

The closing also includes the final salutation, which can be written as follows:

Sincerely, 

or

Respectfully,

Note that in each case, a comma follows the final salutation. After the closing salutation, double-space and type your name. If you will be printing and mailing this letter, leave four lines between the final salutation and your typed name, which will give you room to sign your name. On the next line under your typed name, type your phone number(s), since you mentioned in your closing for him or her to contact you at the number(s) shown below.

It's important to provide a notation at the end of your cover letter stating there are additional documents in the envelope for the employer to review (i.e., your resume). The way to make this notation is as follows:

  • Double-space after your contact phone number(s) and type the abbreviation Encl. (for one enclosure) or Encls. (for more than one). This section can also designate who else is receiving a copy of this letter and enclosures. This is done by double-spacing and typing cc: File, or cc: Human Resources, if applicable. This should be the final item on the page.

Here is an example of how the closing salutation would appear with all of the above included after it:

Respectfully,

 

Jane Doe

 

Home phone: (xxx) xxx-xxxx
Cell phone: (xxx) xxx-xxxx

 

Encl.

 

cc: Human Resources

From format to content

Formatting a cover letter is not always easy, but with these helpful hints and tips you'll definitely make a memorable first impression. Keep in mind that nothing screams unprofessionalism like a nicely formatted cover letter that is filled with spelling and grammar errors. To ensure your resume and cover letter are error-free, submit them to our resume editors.

Image source: Hitarth Jadhav/Pexels.com

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