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Cover Letters

The cover letter is a marketing tool that introduces you to a prospective employer, and focuses on 2–3 main reasons why you are a strong fit for your target position. It highlights your interest in working for the organization, emphasizes your main skills and experiences, and demonstrates a match between your core competencies and the requirements of a role. Although the cover letter touches on key abilities listed on your resume, it should not be a complete repetition of your resume.
 

Always include a cover letter with your resume and tailor your letter to the position and company you are applying to, whether a job is posted or not. How and what you write in a cover letter will convey your professionalism, competence, motivation, and personality to a potential employer. A well written cover letter should leave a strong first impression and entice the reader to review your resume.

 

When writing your cover letter:
 

  • Keep it to 1 page

  • Research the company and analyze the job

  • Customize your letter for each company

  • Draw similarities between your key strengths and what the company is looking for

  • Focus on what you can offer to the company, instead of what they can do for you

  • Answer the question: "Why should I hire you?"

  • Be positive and confident in your approach

  • Proofread and ensure there are no grammatical or spelling errors
Types of Cover Letters

Whether you are responding to a posted job advertisement or sending an unsolicited letter to a targeted company exploring work opportunities, there are 2 main types of cover letters:

Solicited Cover Letter / Invited Letter

  • Most common type of letter used by job seekers

  • Written and targeted towards a specific job ad posting

  • Uses examples to show how your skills, experience, and education meet the needs of a potential employer

Unsolicited Cover Letter / Cold Call Letter

  • Used to introduce your resume to a prospective employer, but is not written in response to an advertised position
     

Up to 80% of the work available is never posted or advertised; writing an unsolicited cover letter can give you an advantage and help you tap into the "hidden" job market

Format

You should follow business-style formatting for your cover letter, which includes:

Your Contact Information

  • Your name, address, phone number, and professional e-mail address

  • Use same formatting as resume header (optional)
     

Date Cover Letter is Sent
  

Company Address

  • Include name of person you are addressing your cover letter to, their position title, and company name and full address

  • If a name is not provided in the job posting, try to research and determine a contact to address your letter to. For example, the department head or manager, a recruiter, or human resources representative
     

Salutation

  • Use “Dear Mr. / Ms. [last name]:”

  • If you cannot find a contact name, consider using “Dear Hiring Manager:” or “Dear Hiring Committee:”

  • If you are uncertain about a contact’s gender, use their full name. For instance, “Dear Pat Brown:”

  • Avoid: "To whom it may concern:" or "Dear Sir or Madam:"
     

Opening Paragraph

  • Why are you writing? What position or type of work are you applying for? Where did you hear about the position?

  • List the 2–3 key strengths that make you a great fit for the role

  • Briefly explain why you want to work for this company. Express your motivation and avoid self-centred statements
     

Main Body

  • What sets you apart from other candidates? Give 1–2 specific examples to back up the 2–3 key strengths that you highlighted in your opening paragraph

  • Describe relevant experience (past or current), knowledge, education, skills, work values, and/or personal attributes

  • 1–2 paragraphs
     

Closing Paragraph

  • Summarize your core competencies in 1 line, request an interview, and thank the employer

Signature

  • End with “Sincerely,” and type out your full name

  • Sign your name, or use an e-signature for online submissions

Writing Tips

Opening Paragraph

Start your cover letter with a “hook” and avoid cliché openings like, “Please accept my application for…” or “I would like to apply for…” Instead, consider one of these techniques for your cover letter’s first sentence:

  • Name dropping — If you know someone who works for the company (i.e. you were referred), attended the company’s information session on campus, or checked out the company's website, mention it here

  • Relevant experience — Start your letter by listing your 2–3 key strengths that relate back to the position to which you are applying

  • Highlight an achievement — Mention an award, promotion, or certificate that you received that supports a skill that is highly valued by your current target company

  • Pinpoint an employer’s pain points — Research and identify a company’s “business pain” (i.e. areas of growth or improvement, where they might require assistance and/or a specific skill set), and describe how you can help

  • Quote or analogy — Add personality to your cover letter by beginning with a quote or analogy that you can link back to the competencies that you have to offer
     

Main Body

  • Use the STAR formula to showcase your skills and experience. For the 1–2 main examples that you include in your cover letter, outline the Situation, Task, Action and Result

  • Do not mention salary unless specifically requested to do so

Closing Paragraph

  • For a more proactive closing, state that you will contact the employer at a given time to follow up on your application

  • Include your phone number and/or email address, and a time when you can be reached

 

If you have sent your application out to employers, don't know if your existing job search tools are effective, and or have used the resources and events noted here, check out the one to one appointments for 'Resume & Cover Letter Advising' and or 'Online Profile Advising' available with a Resume & Online Profile Advisor at the Career Centre.

For more tips, read: 'Building Your Profile - Online & Hard Copy' in CAREER COMPASS

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