Cover letters can be intimidating and most people don’t know how to approach one. I work for a company where I help people correct their resumes and cover letters, and teach them the proper formatting techniques. I would like to share with you what I know, because many examples that I see online are incorrect. For information on how to properly create a resume visit my page on “How to Create a Resume in Today’s World”:
1) Header – The top part of your cover letter should be the header from your resume. The header is the section with your name, address, phone number, and e-mail. Copy and paste it from your resume. Everything written in your cover letter should be the same font and size as in your resume.
2) Date – Insert one line between the Header and Date. Put the date that you are sending the cover letter on its own line. It should include the full name of the month, day, and year. Example: March 1, 2011. Do not put: 3/1/2011.
3) Employer’s Information – Insert four lines between the date and Employer’s Information. Here you list the name of the person you are sending the cover letter to (Mr./Mrs./First Name Last Name), Title/Position of the person (Manager, Human Resources, etc.), name of Organization, Address, City/State/Zip. If you don’t know the person’s name, call the company to find out; if they will not disclose the information address it to “To Whom It May Concern” as a last resort.
Here is an example:
Mr. John Smith
Human Resources Manager
123 First St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
4) Greeting – Insert one line between the Employer’s Information and Greeting, which should read Dear Mr./Mrs. Name with a : following it. Example: Dear Mr. Allen Jones:, or To Whom It May Concern:
5) First Paragraph – Insert one line between the Greeting and First Paragraph. This section should include why you are writing the cover letter (i.e. – to obtain a position at the company), the title of the position you are applying for, and the company’s name. State how you learned about the position (through an employee there, online job listing, etc). Say why you are interested in the position and show that you have knowledge about the company. This paragraph should be between 3-6 sentences long, and doesn’t need to be long.
6) Second Paragraph – Insert one line between the First and Second Paragraph. Here you will show how you are qualified. If you have a degree, list it, and tell them where you got it. You can go more into detail on things from your resume that pertain to this job, and talk about past jobs or internships where you learned the necessary skills. Discuss the things you learned in school that pertain to the job, or leadership roles you had in classes, clubs, or jobs. You can say that they can further learn more about your qualifications on your resume, which you have enclosed. Say what YOU can do for the company, not what THEY can do for you. Normally this will be one paragraph, but if necessary you can separate it into two. This should be your longest paragraph/paragraphs.
7) Third Paragraph – Insert one line between the Second and Third Paragraph. Here you state a plan of action. You can request an interview. You could also say that you look forward to meeting with them for an interview to further discuss your qualifications, or that you look forward to hearing from them soon. Thank them for their time and consideration. You are not being too forward by saying these things. This paragraph does not need to be long.
8) Closing – Insert one line between the Third Paragraph and Closing. This line should simply say Sincerely with a comma following (Sincerely,). Insert three spaces after Sincerely and then type your name. When you print your cover letter you will sign your name in cursive, with black ink, in these 3 lines. Insert one line after your typed name and type “Enclosure” which means that you have other information included (i.e – resume, and possibly, references). Enclosure is not completely necessary.
A cover letter is an important piece of information, and it gives them a reason to look at your resume, or not look at it if it is poorly written. Your cover letter is a reflection of you. Just like your resume, a cover letter is something written to get you an interview, not the job. Keep your cover letter to one page, and it’s not a problem if you’re cover letter is one full page.