After completing extensive training, doing an extensive employment search, and perfecting your resume, you may feel as though you are running out of steam as you sit down to compose a cover letter for your dream job application. You may be tempted to rush through this process without giving it much thought.
But your cover letter is far more than a simple formality. While resumes are generally quite dry and broadly focused, cover letters allow you to introduce yourself with a highly personal feel, place your qualifications in context, and explain your passion for a particular position, company, or field of work. Most importantly, your cover letter has to be mistake-free and strike just the right tone.
For help doing all of this and more, let’s examine each component of the ideal cover letter beginning at the beginning.
Although they have different opinions about its size and graphic design qualities, most experts agree that your cover letter should begin with an eye-catching header that prominently features your contact information at the very top of the page. Items to include in this header include your full name, your existing job tile, your email address, and your telephone number.
Begin the cover letter proper by greeting your target hiring manager by name with a simple “Dear _______.” Conduct research to find this individual’s full, formal name, and never use impersonal and generic salutations such as “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”
3. Opening Paragraph
After your greeting, grab the hiring manager’s attention by immediately stating how you will benefit your target company in a single sentence. For example, “As a lifelong enthusiast of Apple and an experienced programmer a background in team leadership, I was thrilled to see your posting for the Lead Programmer position.’ Follow this statement with two or three of your most impressive and relevant accomplishments.
4. Middle Paragraph
Knowing that you have wowed your reader with a short list of what you have to offer, you can now go into a bit more detail. Explain exactly why you are the perfect candidate for the job in your middle paragraph. But remember that brevity is essential in a good cover letter, so don’t ramble on and on.
5. Final Paragraph
Beyond the first impression that you make with your introduction, your parting words in your final paragraph provide your best chance to make a positive impact. Wrap up and summarize the main idea you wish to convey about yourself. Be courteous but take care not to project neediness. Concentrate on the value you will bring and conclude with a call-to-action such as asking the hiring manager to meet with you.
6. Formal Closing
Similar to your salutation, your closing should bookend your cover letter in a professionally warm but relatively formal way. Beyond the standard “Sincerely,” you may want to consider closings such as “Best regards” and “Respectfully yours." While adding a handwritten signature above your typewritten name is optional, it is often wise to do so, particularly if your target company and/or hiring manager is relatively traditional.
7. Consider a Postscript
After closing with your name, you may want to consider adding a single-sentence postscript if you have any particularly urgent or pertinent information to convey. You may want to write this postscript by hand, particularly if you have already given your cover letter a handwritten touch by signing your name. Regardless, you should set off your postscript with the standard abbreviation “P.S.” and use it to stress your unique value proposition.