Cover Letters 101: What, Why, and How

April 10, 2012

Job seekers question relevance of cover letters in the digital age, but here’s the skinny: When you’re working with a search and recruiting professional all that matters is if the job requires one! Be sure to read all the sections below for a thorough understanding of what a cover letter is and isn’t, why they’re important, and how to set about writing one.

What is a Cover Letter?
When applying for a job, employers may ask you to send in a cover letter with your resume or application. Your resume is about you: your skills, your experience. By contrast, the cover letter is all about the company and job you’re applying to. You get to explain specifically why you are the right person for the job, not just in terms of your skills but also in terms of your personal and cultural “fit” with the company.

Why do I Need a Cover Letter?
Imagine that you need a plumber to come to your house. You call a plumber, but rather than explain what he can do for you, the plumber only talks about how what a great guy he is and how he is looking for work like yours. To an employer who requests a cover letter, this is what it feels like when someone sends in a resume with no cover letter! You need to discuss what you can offer their company in as much detail as possible. For example, if they’re looking for someone to reorganize their filing system, and you’ve done this before, a cover letter is a great place to talk about how effectively you can perform this task for them.

How do I Write a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is written in a letter form, so start with a salutation. For example, “Dear Mr. Smith” (if you know the name of the person you are sending your application materials to) or “To Whom it May Concern,” if you don’t.

Next, write two or three paragraphs about your fit for the job. Be sure to go over all of the requirements listed thoroughly and address as many of them as you can, providing specific examples to showcase your aptitude for the position. NOTE: We say two or three paragraphs, but the job listing may say to include a “short” cover letter or a “detailed” one. Stick to the length they ask for!

Finish the letter with a closing. Here are a few you might consider:
– Best wishes,
– Kind regards,
– Many thanks,
– Respectfully yours,

Then type out your name and appropriate contact information, with each piece of info on a new line. For example:

Jane Doe
1894 Sherwood Lane
Anytown, State 19032

Now for the most important part of writing your cover letter: read it over again. If you can, get a friend or two to look it over for typos, unfinished sentences, errors, etc. You want this letter to be as perfect and polished as your resume!

If you’re sending the cover letter by email, you can copy and paste the letter into your email. Avoid any fancy fonts or formats to make this simple. If the job ad specifically requests that you attach the letter, do so, and stick to standard formats like a word .doc or PDF. Keep in mind that employment agencies can more readily save your .doc to their database for future consideration. If you’re mailing an application or turning it in by hand, print it out and get it out as soon as you can.

Have questions or need help? Be sure to contact Dallas Employment Services today!

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