If you’re getting ready to apply to a university or a new job, you’ll need to learn how to write a good cover letter. Though a cover letter is not always required, it does help add a sense of professionalism and expertise to any application. It can also help you stand out from the crowd.
The cover letter is a part of the application process that causes problems for a lot of people. After all, in a job resume (or “CV”), you need to provide a detailed report of your relevant accomplishments. So, what’s left to write about in your cover letter?
The answer will largely depend on what you are applying for, but we will delve more into that a little later.
First, let’s address some of the most pressing questions related to cover letters: What cover letter template should you use? What are some good cover letter examples? What are some tips for writing a cover letter when you have no experience? And finally, how can YOU write the perfect cover letter?
3 Steps for Writing a Cover Letter That Will Impress
Before you put your pen to paper (figuratively speaking), you’ll need to know what to include in your cover letter. Whether you’re applying for a new job, an academic grant, a spot at a great school, or something else entirely, you’ll want to craft a cover letter that makes sense. Luckily for you, writing a great cover letter is easier than many people realize!
Step 1: Compile the Right Information
Generally, a cover letter accompanies a resume or formal application.
Your resume or application should serve as a snapshot of your life. More precisely, it should include your education, work history, skills, references, and any other relevant experiences.
On the other hand, your cover letter should serve as a description of exactly why you deserve the position for which you are applying. In essence, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to plead your case directly. After all, the school, company, or organization will likely receive dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of applications, so you will want to do everything in your power to catch their attention.
What information should you include in your cover letter? To answer this question, you will need to analyze your application and the position you want. Which parts of your application are MOST relevant to the position? More importantly, which parts will look most appealing to the hiring manager or recruiter?
For example, let’s say you’re applying for a job as a receptionist. On your resume, you listed your degree in Business Administration, your 3 years working at a fast-food restaurant, your relevant skills (multitasking, organizational skills, and IT knowledge), your time spent volunteering as a summer camp counselor, and your references.
While this can all be included on your resume, not everything is necessarily relevant to being a receptionist. So, for your cover letter, you should probably focus on your Business Administration degree and your relevant skills.
By analyzing the position you want and how your accomplishments could appeal to a hiring manager or recruiter, you can easily determine which pieces of information are most relevant. Once you find the information that makes you stand out and makes you seem like the right person for the position, you can begin writing your cover letter.
What if I don’t have any relevant job experience?
However, if you’re writing a cover letter when you have no experience, things get a bit more challenging. Don’t worry! You can still impress the person reading your application.
Rather than focusing on experience (since this is a weaker part of your resume), you should focus on your skills, work ethic, enthusiasm, and similar characteristics that could justify being chosen for the position. You can even use a personal story to showcase why you’re a great fit for the company and the position.
Now that you know what to include, let’s look at the correct writing style to use for your next cover letter!
Step 2: Write with a simple yet professional tone
Whether you’re submitting a physical document or sending an application via email, you’ll want to make your writing as professional as possible. In order to do this, you’ll need to set a professional tone for your cover letter.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. In fact, being creative is a must if you want your cover letter to help you land the position!
Writing a cover letter that looks and sounds professional doesn’t require fancy jargon or long, eloquent prose. Actually, it’s quite the opposite! You should try to be direct when describing your credentials and accomplishments. For example, let’s say you want to talk about your experience working as a chef.
You might be inclined to say something like this:
I was employed by one of the top Italian restaurants in Manhattan, where I worked as a head chef for over 6 years. Having been classically trained in Italian cuisine, I felt that this was my dream job. Sadly, life took me away from New York City and the job that I loved so dearly. However, I am now ready to pursue my passion in a new venue, where I await great new possibilities!
Though the paragraph above paints an interesting picture, it doesn’t set the right tone for a cover letter.
The first sentence uses the passive voice, which is generally something that you should avoid. The active voice is more direct and professional, while also giving you a tone of authority. In the second and third sentences, it seems like you are a little too eager to return to your past job. The last sentence is not bad, but it could be more professional without the exclamation mark.
I worked as the head chef at one of the top Italian restaurants in Manhattan from 2009-2015. Prior to accepting this position, I received extensive training in classical Italian cuisine. Thanks to these great experiences, I am excited to pursue my passion in a new venue, where I await great new possibilities.
In the revised version, you spend less time talking about how much you miss your previous job. Additionally, the active voice makes the entire paragraph shorter and more direct. This way, you can get straight to the point.
This is more important than you may realize, as the person reading your cover letter probably has quite a few cover letters to go through and limited time to read each one.
Step 3: Format your cover letter correctly
Now that you have compiled all of the necessary information and figured out the right tone to use, it’s time to put everything together in a nice, clean cover letter template.
Thankfully, this is one of the easiest steps, as there are hundreds of free cover letter templates online. While you’ll find some variations among them, most cover letters stick to a pretty standard format:
You’ll want to put your contact information at the top of your cover letter so that the person reading it can easily contact you. Generally, you should include the following:
Date of Submission
City, State of Residence (you may be asked to include a full address here)
Greetings or Salutations
If possible, try to find out the name of the hiring manager or recruiter.
You can usually find this kind of information on a school or company website. If that doesn’t work, you can simply call the organization directly and ask for the hiring manager’s name. It is always best to address the person by name, as this draws their attention and makes you look like a diligent applicant who knows how to do their research.
If you are unable to find out their name, you can use one of the following greetings:
Dear Hiring Manager,
To Whom It May Concern,
Dear Sir or Madam,
In the first paragraph, you will want to introduce yourself and explain your reasons for applying to the position. Make this paragraph specific to the position for which you are applying. The person reading your cover letter will be able to tell if you use a generic, templated introduction.
In the middle section (1-3 paragraphs), explain exactly why you are the right person for the position. Use the relevant information you extracted from your resume.
However, you shouldn’t just make a carbon copy of your resume and put it on your cover letter. Instead, summarize the most relevant information and briefly explain how your accomplishments or experiences would benefit the organization.
Use the last paragraph to summarize your qualifications, reiterate your interest in the position, and thank the person for taking the time to review your application. Don’t make this part overly long. You will want to ensure that your entire cover letter fits on one page (if you’re submitting a physical copy). A closing paragraph should be no more than 3-4 sentences.
At the very end of your cover letter, include a standard, formal closing. You can either use your printed name or signature. Though both forms are acceptable, a signature usually looks more personal. Either way, your name should be preceded by one of the following:
Thank You for Your Consideration,
Examples of Great English Cover Letters
To get a better idea of how your cover letter should look, it’s important to study existing English cover letters. Here are a few good cover letter examples:
- Free Sample Cover Letters
- Cover Letters for Every Type of Job Seeker
- Creative Cover Letter Template
- Cover Letters for the Experienced Applicant
We hope you found this guide for writing an English cover letter useful! The most important thing to remember is that every cover letter you write should be unique to you and the position you want.
If you’d like to learn more about writing a cover letter in English, visit Magoosh Speaking today!