Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to Write a Killer Cover Letter

By Kelsey McWilliams, Marketing Intern at CU-Boulder Career Services

Writing a cover letter is one of the tougher tasks in applying for jobs. There have been several jobs that I haven’t taken the time to apply for just because I didn’t have a cover letter. Once you write your first cover letter, however, applying for jobs will become much easier because you will only have to tweak a few small things in your original cover letter based on each job’s description. Follow these helpful steps on writing a cover letter and don’t ever miss out on another job opportunity! You’ll not only have a great cover letter, but one that will blow away your competition.

Why do I need a cover letter?
The goal of a cover letter is to demonstrate to a potential employer how your strengths match the position as well as your knowledge and interest in the company and the job. Your writing should focus on how you will meet the company’s needs, not the other way around.

Cover Letter Outline
Company Contact Information

Dear Ms./Mr. ____________:
(Do your research and find out how to make the cover letter out to. Don’t use “To Whom It May Concern”- that’s just plain lazy.)

In the first paragraph you should explain the reason for your letter and/or identify the job position you are applying for. Mention how you learned of the job especially if you were recommended by a mutual contact. Show enthusiasm for the position and demonstrate your knowledge and interest in the company.

The second paragraph should include relevant information about your experience or coursework. Next, you should address your ability to contribute to the company’s needs. You can demonstrate this by giving examples of your qualifications, accomplishments, and skills based on your past jobs and activities.

Finally you should express your confidence that you are the perfect fit for the job. Give the potential employer a reason to want to hire you. Your final paragraph should also include contact information where you can be reached and a sentence that says you will follow up with them to make sure they received your resume and cover letter. Don’t forget to thank the employer for their time!

Helpful Hints
• Cover letters should be concise, simple, and direct. They are usually about three to four paragraphs long.
• Make sure to vary your sentence structure, so that not every sentence starts with “I.”

• Carefully read each job description before composing a cover letter. Don’t forget to modify and tailor your cover letter for each position. Include keywords that match what they are looking for.
• Be sure to change the company name throughout your cover letter so you don’t accidentally use the wrong name! That can get your
• Always proofread your cover letter for grammatical and spelling errors. One spelling error could get your resume trashed.
• Make sure to save your cover letter (and your resume) as one PDF file rather than two separate Microsoft Word documents. Paste your cover letter in the body of your email and also attach the PDF file.
• Don’t use any abbreviated or text language in the body of your email. Use  professional language throughout the email.
• Use the same size font as well as the same header with your contact information on your resume and cover letter, so that they both look the same.
• Be confident! Don’t be afraid to tell employers why you are right for their position, but be sure you can back it up with the appropriate skills or results.

Visit our website for more information about cover letter and resume writing. If you have additional questions, come on in and see us! We have 15-minute walk-in appointments Monday- Thursday from 1:30-4pm where a counselor can give you feedback.