Job Guide USA :: COVER LETTERS

COVER LETTERS

Most of us attach a Cover Letter with a printed job application but you might have often wondered whether there’s a need to attach a Cover Letter when applying online. The answer is “Yes” whenever you can. Consider it as an added opportunity to make your case. Since Resumes are normally more suited to cover your hard skills, educational qualifications and details of experience, the Cover Letter is your personal message that will explain why you’re the best candidate for the job.

EMAIL COVER LETTER SUBJECT LINE – mention the Position you’re applying for or the Job Reference # if it is mentioned in the job advertisement

LENGTH – ideally the length of a Cover Letter should not be more than three to four short paragraphs or say half of a page, and almost always within a page. The letter should have enough details to carry your most impressive credentials specifically for the job and short enough to be readable.

FORMATTING – standard formatting such as .75” to 1” margin all around, regular fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica or Verdana for online, and font sizes from 10 to 12 points is recommended. You may bend these rules a bit if you’re applying for a graphic designer’s job or some similar job types where you want to show your creativity. However remember, this is not your creative portfolio, at best a sneak peek into it.

LANGUAGE – use professional business English, avoid clichés, jargons and abbreviations and use short sentences to make the document readable.

TONE – be positive and confident but don’t brag. Your skills, qualifications & experience should convey why you’re the best candidate for the job without your actually saying those words.

ADDRESSED TO:
(On the top left side)

  • Recipient’s Name
  • Title
  • Company Name
  • Company Address

Date

SALUTATION - how you will address the Hiring Manager depends on well you know the person – anything from Dear Amy to Hi Amy is fine if you know her. On the other hand, if you don’t know the Hiring Manager but her name is mentioned in the job Ad, then Dear Mr/Ms or Dr. “Last Name” seems appropriate. In cases where the name of the person is not mentioned “Dear Hiring Manager” can be used as well. Some candidates also address the letter to “Whom it May Concern” this however might appear templated and impersonal.

COMPONENTS: The components of a Cover Letter may vary somewhat from one profession to another, but generally consists of:

AN INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH – where you refer to the Position & Job Reference # you’re applying for, and source where you found the vacancy. If you were referred by a common friend or acquaintance mention the name.

BODY - this consists of a brief paragraph or two where you should talk about your credentials especially relevant to the role. You may divide this in two paragraphs if you need to – one a summary of soft skills for the job and the second your hard skills and experience in the specific field. In short the Intro paragraph will answer why “you’re qualified for the role”. State specific qualifications you have which relate to the job requirement. In addition mention your unique selling point – a 4.0 GPA or a Princeton Degree will matter if you’re a fresh graduate, whereas 20 years hands-on experience in the job-related field will have a better impact for a mid-level or senior role. Don’t repeat in the Cover Letter verbatim what’s in your Resume as you’ll attach it anyway, although you could include the highlights of your Resume - what makes you special in a line or two. Example for a Project Managers’ position the sentence “PMP certified Project Manager with 20 years’ experience in bringing troubled projects back on track” will work wonders. The details of the experience and instances where the candidate saved troubled projects will be included in the Resume, but placing this is one sentence in the Cover Letter gives it extra punch.
Your Cover Letter should be interesting enough to make the hiring manager read your Resume, and it’s the Resume which in turn should be convincing enough for them to call you for an interview.

CONTACT INFORMATION – although your contact info is included in the Resume, it’s a good practice to include your Address and Contact information in the Cover letter as well, just in case the resume gets detached and misplaced. You could place this contact info the first thing on the page on the top left (before the Employer’s info), or use your Letterhead which includes it, or you can also place it immediately after your signature as well.

CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH - mention next steps here, either that you plan to follow up in two weeks or you could just say that you’re looking forward to hearing back from them. This is also a good place to mention briefly why you’re excited about the position and the company and therefore looking forward to a face to face interview.

SIGN OFF/CLOSING – how you sign off the letter will again depend on how well you know the Hiring Manager/Recruiter - Sincerely, Best, Regards, Best Regards, Best Wishes, Thank you for your consideration are all appropriate.
If you’re sending the job application by mail, you should sign the printed copy of the Cover Letter, whereas an electronic version can contain your electronic signature, as well as your full name below it. You could either just attach the resume or if you want to play it safe (just in case the attachment gets blocked) also copy and paste the resume after the cover letter.
Write “Enclosure” or “Attachment” after your signature and describe the attachment Resume or if there’s anything else

If you’d rather use a template than create the Cover Letter yourself, Cover Letter templates are also available in Microsoft Word, and on some career related websites.

’s built-in spell check, read and re-read before you “Post” or “Send”, because you don’t want a typo in the company or Hiring Manager’s name to negatively impact your chances.