How to Write a Cover Letter

A cover letter, also known as an application letter, is a personalized letter from you to the person overseeing the hiring process for the job you’re applying for.

A cover letter is not the same as a résumé. While a résumé provides a clear, point-by-point map of your career thus far, a cover letter tells the personal side of your career story. Ideally, your cover letter and résumé complement each other, with each document answering any questions the recruiter has about your skills and work experience after reading the other.

What Should a Cover Letter Include?

Make sure your cover letter includes all the following:

  • The position for which you’re applying
  • How you found the job opening
  • Why you want to work for the company
  • Why you’re applying to the specific position you’re seeking
  • The skills, experience, and work-related personality traits that make you a great fit for the role

Mentioning the position you’re applying for and how you found it is simple—just state your interest in the job title in your opening sentence: “I’m writing in response to the content writer position posted on Indeed.”

When you talk about why you want to work at the company, you can’t just write “because I need a job.” Even if it’s true, it does nothing to make you stand out as a well-qualified candidate for the role. This part of your cover letter should communicate how your specific values and career goals fit the company’s mission. You might say something like:

  • “As a lifelong animal rights activist, I’m excited for the opportunity to work with an organization that directly benefits threatened species.”
  • Your cover letter also needs to talk about how and why you’re qualified for the position for which you’re applying. Sentences that communicate these points can look like this:
  • “During my years teaching English in Japan, I developed the classroom management skills, cultural sensitivity, and linguistic knowledge base necessary to succeed as an ESL teacher.”
  • “I have worked in customer service for the past seven years. During that time, I’ve become an expert in clear communication, problem-solving, and guiding customers to the products best suited for them.”
  • Beyond sharing why you’re interested in working for the specific employer and why you’re qualified for the role, include a little bit about yourself and how this shines through at work:
  • “I’m a natural organizer. In my past roles, I’ve helped my colleagues increase their productivity by introducing them to my favorite organization tools and strategies.”

Is a Cover Letter Necessary?

With most job applications, you’ve probably seen the phrase “cover letter optional.”

But is it really optional? The stats on whether a cover letter will actually help you get a job or not are mixed. According to the 2016 Jobvite Recruiter Nation report, 74 percent of recruiters do not consider a cover letter when assessing whether to hire a job applicant. However, 90 percent of executives from recruiting firm, Robert Half, reported that they don’t only consider cover letters in the hiring process, but that cover letters are invaluable.

The truth is, cover letters are more important in certain industries or for certain roles than they are in others. Familiarize yourself with your industry’s norms for cover letters, which you can do by talking to more senior professionals in your industry and reviewing job postings for positions like the one you’re seeking. If the job posting says a cover letter is required, write a cover letter. And if it doesn’t, write one anyway. The only times when you shouldn’t write a cover letter are when the job posting explicitly says not to send one and when the application process doesn’t allow you to provide one.

When in doubt, it’s always better to be overprepared, so get started on your cover letter today! Use CorrectEnglish to make sure your cover letter is polished and professional.

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