Create A Cover Letter That Will Get You Noticed

Elizabeth Enck

Elizabeth Enck

Career Counselor

As you begin applying to jobs you will notice that many will ask for a cover letter, letter of interest or letter of application. They are all really the same thing, a business letter that introduces you and provides information that is not already included in your resume or application. Most people dread having to write cover letters but this article will break down what to include and will walk you through writing one paragraph by paragraph to make it easy for you to create a cover letter that will stand out.

Cover Letter 101

A cover letter is a formal business letter. If asked to provide a cover letter it should include some standard information at the top of the page. You should include the date, your contact information, and the company name and their address. Do the best you can to find this information. Although it’s more than likely you will be sending your cover letter in electronically, it’s still standard to include this in the letter. You should also always try to address the letter to a specific person. The job posting may include a name you can use. If not, address the letter to a title such as Dear Hiring Manager, Human Resources Director, Manager, etc. Avoid using the phrase “To whom it may concern.”

Another important thing to remember is that a cover letter should be tailored and a new one should be written for each position you are applying to. While this may seem time consuming, you want to make sure that each letter demonstrates why you are interested in the position and why you are qualified. Since each position you apply to will be different, your cover letter needs to be different as well. Employers will know if your letter is a generic one that you are sending to everyone. It is your job to convince them that you want to work for them, not that you will take any job out there.

Your goal is to match up your application materials, including your cover letter, to what the employer is looking for. Many people wonder how to know what is important to the employer or what keywords to use. The best place to find this information is in the job description itself. The job description will show you what the employer views as the most important parts of that position. These are the things you want to focus on in your cover letter. Explain to the employer how you are qualified and have the skills they are looking for. Make sure you don’t mention skills you don’t have. Although it can be tempting to write something like “While I don’t have experience in….” you want to avoid it. Keep the focus on what you can bring to the position and avoid pointing out your areas of weakness. Hopefully what you do have will overshadow anything you are lacking.

First Paragraph

The first paragraph is where you will include what position you are applying for and how you learned about it. Employers like to know if you found the job posting on their website, through another person or on a job search site such as MFG Jobs. If you did learn about the position through someone, this would be an appropriate place to “name drop.” For example, you may say that you “learned about the position through John Doe.” This paragraph is typically a few sentences long and serves as an introduction.

Second Paragraph

The second paragraph, which could even turn into two paragraphs, is really the core of the cover letter. This is where you talk about your interest in the position and why you are a fit. Think about your resume as a document that tells the employer what you have done but your cover letter as a document that explains why you are a good fit. Remember that you are not telling them why the position is valuable in general. You want to explain the reasons that you were drawn to apply. You can also talk about why you are interested in working at that company. This is where doing research, especially checking out the company’s website, comes in handy. It’s these reasons that it is important to write a new cover letter each time.

This section is also where you want to talk about any previous experience or skills that make you a good fit for this position. Don’t just restate your resume but think about highlighting things on your resume you want to make stand out more. You may also want to expand on something that is mentioned in your resume. Remember, you want to show the employer what sets you apart from other applicants.

Closing Paragraph

In the final paragraph you want to bring the cover letter to a close. This is where you can restate your interest in the position and why you are a fit. Make sure you are not saying anything about the other candidates being the wrong fit; keep the focus on you. Here you can restate your contact information such as your email address and phone number. You may want to say something such as “I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

Email Cover Letters

If you are asked to apply for a job or to send your resume by email, but you are not specifically asked for a cover letter, you may want to include an abbreviated version in the body of your email. It doesn’t need to include the formal information such as the company address, but you can still write a couple of paragraphs about your interest and fit for the position. However, if you are asked to submit a resume and cover letter I would attach a formal cover letter with just a brief message in the email about the position you are applying for and your attached documents.

This information should help you to write a cover letter that is sure to gain the attention of an employer. If you follow these guidelines you can feel confident about your cover letter getting noticed.

About The Author

Elizabeth Enck
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Elizabeth Enck

Elizabeth Enck was a career counselor at The University Of Tennessee for 6 years. She worked with undergraduate, graduate students, and alumni with their career planning and job searching. This included providing assistance with resumes and cover letters, interviewing including conducting practice interviews, and guidance through the job search process. She has a Master’s Degree in Counseling with an emphasis on career counseling.

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