Cover letters usually go hand in hand with resumes. It used to be that you always needed to submit both when applying for a job. Nowadays, the topic on cover letters is a mixed opinions one. Some say that they are no longer needed, while others still stand by the need to always include one along with your resume. The purpose of a cover letter is to expand on your resume and explain how you can be the best fit for a job.
In other words cover letters are your chance to explain how your experience matches the job.
Early on in my career, cover letters terrified me. I felt as if this was the first thing a potential employer saw, and I did a bad job, that they wouldn’t even look at my resume. Now, I’ve changed my way of thinking and see cover letters as an opportunity for me to explain why I am the best candidate and what I can bring to the table in this new role.
If you’re starting out and this is your first time putting together a cover letter then I can see how it would be confusing and how you wouldn’t know where to start. I want to create this post to help you and guide you, sharing exactly what you need to include in your cover letter. Like I did with my resume blog I will include a sample cover letter at the very bottom of this post so that you can see what it entails.
Let’s talk about structure first. I like to think of cover letters containing three small paragraphs. The first paragraph briefly introduces who you are and what you are applying for. The second paragraph is your place to shine. It is in this paragraph where you briefly explain your previous experience and connect the dots as to why you think you are the best candidate for the job. Finally the last paragraph brings it all back together and provides information on where they can contact you.
A few tips in regards to cover letters:
- Always try to address the cover letter to a specific person as opposed to saying “Dear Recruiter” or “To whom it may concern.” This is the first indicator that you have done your research and know what department or area you are applying to work in.
- Try to keep your cover letter to one page.
- If possible, opt for attaching your cover letter as opposed to copying and pasting it to the body of an email (if that’s how you are submitting your application materials)
- Also, pay attention to the file name you give your cover letter. I always suggest titling it First Name_Last Name_Name of Company/Organization
Think about cover letters this way. The resume is the what (this is what I can do) and the cover letter is the why (this is why you should hire me).
So, before I show you the example cover letter let’s create one from scratch. First, you’ll want to do some research and try and find the manager’s or recruiter’s name so that you can address the cover letter directly to them. Let’s say their name is John Smith and you are applying for a marketing coordinator role at JcPenney. Your first paragraph might look like this:
Dear Mr. Smith,
I am delighted to submit my application for the marketing coordinator position at JcPenney. I have over 3 years of previous marketing experience which includes email, social media and advertising management and would love to be considered for this role.
For your second paragraph, you’ll want to use this as a space to connect the dots and explain why you are the perfect fit for the position. This is the place where you show what you know about the employer and do so by showing them you’ve done your research and know what they are looking for in a candidate and how you are that person. Again this is the why section that I was talking about before. It may read something like this:
After carefully reading the job description, I see that you are looking for someone with prior marketing experience to manage email campaigns, JcPenney’s social media platforms and various national advertising campaigns. I currently work at XYZ company where I am the marketing coordinator in charge of managing all email campaigns and managing social media platforms. After conducting some research I know that JcPenney’s target audience is mainly women between the ages of 24-50 and I am confident that I can create content that is specific for that audience. My previous experience has taught me to speak in the brand’s voice and I am confident I can maintain JcPenney’s image through social platforms and email campaigns. I also see that you work with various national advertisers on various marketing campaigns across the nation. I feel that my previous experience also directly correlates with the skills you are looking for. I’ve worked on national advertising campaigns with various brands with a X number success rate. I am detail oriented and very organized and feel that this position is the perfect role to take the next step in my career.
For the third paragraph, you want to wrap things up and reiterate that you are interested in the job and include all your contact information.
Your third paragraph might look like this:
I would absolutely love to be considered for this open position at JcPenney. I’d love to tell you about my previous experience and why I would be the perfect candidate. I’ve enclosed my resume for your review. If you have any questions please feel free to call me at (555) 555-5555 or you can also reach me via email at [insert your email address here]. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for taking the time to review my enclosed materials.
[Your Name HERE]
And that is it. Again, don’t be afraid of the cover letter, just like the resume, it takes a little bit of time to put together for each position but the format is pretty much the same. You can get a little creative if you want and try re-arranging the words but make sure to use it as an opportunity to show the potential employer why you are perfect for the job opening.
Now, if you scroll down below you will see an example of a cover letter that I’ve used in the past.