How to Write a Cover Letter for a Resume in 2017

Introduction

Have you ever wondered how to write a cover letter for a resume? A cover letter is an extra opportunity for you to get your message across to your potential employer and introduce information that’s not included in your resume. If you feel like needing a cover letter help, this article is going to help you with the main strategies, formats, and examples.

This video is a short introduction to cover letter writing. This article summarizes all you might need to know about cover letter writing. We analyzed all the famous guides issued by Career and Professional Development centers, by professional resume and cover letter writing services, books edited by professional cover letter writers and testimonials from recruiters. This comprehensive analysis is designed to help you be on top of it during your job search. New useful insights as well as recently rediscovered tips, with some research results, can help you get an interview in the shortest time, and enjoy your application. We’ll start with a short video by Forbes about writing a cover letter for a resume.

Have you ever had this thought coming to your mind “I need help with my resume and cover letter”? You are probably not sure about it. You might think that you would need to pay someone for writing your cover letter? When sending out my application I was never sure if my documents were powerful and convincing. This uneasy feeling about my application led to constant anxiety and uncertainty about the results. That is why I started researching this question and finally decided to write a guide for people like myself - who might need some precious advice while being in their job search.

We want to start the core of our article with some important pieces of advice. We consider that these issues are primordial. They are a lot of tiny details and aspects in cover letter writing - resume and cover letter preparation are two extremely popular career questions, and well-researched fields - but none of them would work unless you work on three of these aspects.

  1. Targeting. You have to know your reader. Just like with every other piece of writing, you have to be aware of a person who will spend time reading your cover letter: what are they searching for? Which of your skills and qualities could persuade them to hire you? How will your knowledge and experience be useful to them? You will never be able to write a good cover letter without knowing their intentions and expectations. It is vital, it is a must.
  2. The bad presentation can spoil good contents. No matter what you have written inside, the first thing the person reading it will pay attention to is the layout of your cover letter, the font, and the formatting. This first impression will also influence the way the core contents of your cover letter will be received.
  3. Extremes are harmful. Keep everything to the middle. An overly formalistic cover letter is as bad as an overly familiar. The main purpose of a cover letter is to show to your employer that you are really interested in getting the job and that you are one of the best candidates. Only mention the aspects your future employer or recruiter will need to know about you. Your cover letter should convince the person to invite you for an interview and therefore it should be kept friendly but not generic.

How to write a cover letter yourself

Among hundreds of articles on the Internet which concern cover letter writing services - all of them agree on the fact that your cover letter should not be a generic one. For a very simple reason - it doesn’t work. You have to make it as tailored to a particular employer as you can. Most likely, you will have a certain position in mind which you are going to apply to. In this case you can adjust your writing to a position you would like to apply for.

You have to make some important decisions before starting to write your cover letter (or asking a professional cover letter writer for help). Sometimes all of us are afraid of making decisions, but you have to make some research in order to make your job search efficient, fast and rewarding.

Decision #1. Know your audience.

This is a tip that will help you a lot if you think it over it before sitting down to write your cover letter or even a resume. Consider the reader: given the position description, the company name and address, number of employees and all the information you can find about them and decide what will be most important for them to know about you. Address your letter to an actual individual. Call the enterprise to request the name and spelling of the manager in charge of the field you want to work for. If possible, establish a certain link with your reader by referring to a past interaction with them, mutual acquaintance or mutual interests.

Decision #2. You have to choose the format of your cover letter.

There are three most common cover letter formats:

  1. Paragraph cover letter.
  2. Specific Needs cover letter.
  3. Grocery List cover letter.

In a nutshell, the difference between those three formats is the middle section, which tells a story differently in all the cases. You may wonder how you are supposed to make this decision? You are not an online resume writer and haven’t learned this at school. This is why we are here. We are a free help with resume and cover letters and we will help make this important decision.

Paragraph cover letter

The standard paragraph cover letter is the most common form of cover letters and is probably the only format you have seen before, especially if you are just starting out in the job market and don’t have a ton of relevant experience in the position you are applying for.

People who are most likely to benefit from using this format are high school and college graduates, entry level workers, career shifters, people with employment gaps, specialists with extensive experience - so basically everyone. This format allows you to tell your story, your key goals and achievements in eight to twelve sentences which are organized in three or four short paragraphs. Just like an essay!

Here is an example of a paragraph cover letter:

Standard paragraph cover letter for executives

Now, when we’ve seen how James Reddington has organized his cover letter, we can have a closer look at the paragraphs and their contents.

He has indicated all the information about himself at the top of the letter so that a person interested in his application would know all the ways to contact him. He also found out the name of a person who is going to read his letter, Ms. Alicia Branson. A good move from his side. We are sure he is going to get that position now. Provided that he keeps writing impressive things in the next paragraphs.

His first paragraph is an introductory paragraph. He uses it to quickly tell a potential employer who he is, how he has found them and why he is writing to them. It is a short introduction. You can include information here about your areas of expertise, your career goals and how they align with the company - it will greatly help a prospective employer grab the essence of your skills. You can also be more detailed and tell them what position you’re specifically applying for - if you are applying to any specific position (which is not always the case and we will show you why later).

His second and third paragraphs are all about what skills, experience and achievements he has that are specific to the job he is applying for and will be bringing with him should they offer him the position. This is the core part of the cover letter, the essence of his experience and the only reason to actually send a cover letter. You should do the same as him. Make sure you highlight your qualifications and how they match the requirements listed in the open position. Use words directly from the job description, because some managers might use ATS (Applicant tracking systems) which may discard your cover letter even before the hiring manager reads it. CV writing companies know a lot about it - this is just a note for you if you consider the option to pay someone for writing a cover letter for you. So be careful with the job descriptions.

What is also important to know about these paragraphs is that it is not a copy of your resume. Cover letter serves different purposes and answers the question of “how” you can be effective for this particular job rather than “what” are your qualifications. Use this letter as an opportunity to really show them that you are the talent they’ve been looking for all along and how ideal you are for the job they are currently hiring for. Use this paragraph to highlight how you fill the needs of a company. This is also where you can add any information that might not be on your resume but which will help convince them that you deserve this position and you are the best candidate they can desire.

Your final paragraph is your conclusion. The most efficient ending is finishing your letter by thanking the reader for taking time to read your letter and considering you for the position. You may also mention the way of communication or express your desire to provide more information during an interview.

T-format cover letter

You can even find some guides on shaping your regular cover letter into a T-form cover letter. Let’s have a look at whether you need it or not.

When should you use it? This is a great format to use when you are confident in your qualification and want to instantly show a particular employer that you have specific skills that match all the skills they are looking for. Is very illustrative, schematic and extremely readable and helps build a vivid picture of your skills and required qualifications and correlate your skills to what they expect from an employee. It could look very beneficial especially if all of your qualifications are corresponding to what your employer is looking for, or somehow exceed the skills required. It is also not a common format. Even resume and cover letter writing services do not use it very often. This is a good chance for your resume to stand out. This format is exceptionally good for established specialists or executives who are able to demonstrate the powerful skill set.

A T-Letter is a modern version of the generic cover letter that lays down your skill set and explains how it matches the position you are applying for. This gives your hiring manager a perfect overview on how you may be a fit for the position. The purpose of the T-Letter is to show your previous experience and how it relates to the particular needs of your prospective employer. If constructed effectively, you will be perceived as an asset in your company. With this document, you are able to indicate awareness and understanding of the desired position and the technical bravery required.

The reason this T format letter is so effective should be quite obvious. Most recruiters and employers are looking for exact matches to their job requirements, and are under a colossal time pressure to screen a tremendous flood of applicants.

By providing the T format document, you are making their job easier, and cutting right to what they are looking for … the match. You are telling them that you are exactly what they are looking for, and give immediate reasons why. If your qualifications genuinely correspond to all of their job requirements in all the details – and you send the “T” Cover Letter to demonstrate it – your chances of leveling up to the next step of employment process will be much higher than you expect.

Let’s suppose James Reddington hasn’t written his standard paragraph cover letter and wrote a T format cover letter instead. Just like a professional cover letter writer.

T cover letter looks better than a paragraph one

This is the same cover letter written in T format. Have a look. What do you think about it? James Reddington has enough experience and can afford writing a cover letter in this format because he knows that his qualifications correspond to the job requirements - and even surpass the expectations. We are sure that this letter could be more effective than the first one we have seen.

Shopping list cover letter

It is a combination of two, though here you don’t indicate the exact wording of your employer’s ad. You are creating an image of yourself as the one who is a good match for a job. It allows you to quickly list your core skills and accomplishments and can immediately demonstrate that you are the one who they are looking for the available position. This is a tricky kind of a resume, not widely used by applicants and cover letter services. However, if you are a confident applicant with an impressive record, you can go for it. Don’t hesitate to send us your cover letter with a story of how it helped you land your dream job.

Decision #3. You have to decide how your cover letter is going to be presented.

Don’t make your font undermine you cover letter’s performance. You cannot even imagine, but there has been a whole bunch of studies on different fonts and their perception. There is a whole discussion about the difference between Serif and Sans-Serif fonts and their readability. You can even address to Wikipedia to have some good read about fonts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serif#Readability_and_legibility

If you don’t feel like reading through all of this research, trust us - it is better to use one of the Sans-Serif fonts (meaning the ones that don’t have extending features at the end of strokes.

    Two reasons for that are:
  1. They are actually considered to be more readable on computer screens.
  2. They are better scanned. So in case your resume will be scanned, it would be much easier for a computer to recognize the letters.

Of course, you have to bear in mind that some of the fonts, although being Sans-Serif, are not creating any advantage for you - the most iconic example is Comic Sans. Good old Times New Roman is also the type of font to avoid. Stick to Arial, Arial Narrow, Calibri, Verdana, Garamond, Georgia, or Trebuchet in its 11 or 12 sizes. This is the best option for the reader.

Size and spacing

An important thing to remember is that your cover letter should not take more than one page. This is the question of respect of your reader’s time.

An ideal cover letter should take two-thirds of the page. In this case, it doesn’t look overcrowded. Neither it looks short - because it contains the essence of what you have to say. It is the amount of text that looks naturally on the page and doesn’t affect the readability of a document.

Brevity is a valuable asset. We like this quote by French philosopher Blaise Pascal who said: “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter." You are interested in demonstrating your ability to be laconic. We don’t like people who can’t explain things shortly. Especially at work, when everyone is busy. You cannot underestimate an ability to be short and prioritize.

There is also one more reason not to make your cover letter longer. It is that no one would read it if it takes more than a couple of paragraphs. Believe me, not a single recruiter will bother reading a two-page document.

Your cover letter along with the resume is the first presentation before you future employer. Look at it and think if you would be interested in hiring the person like you. How can you describe your cover letter? Is it long or short? Concise or wordy? Comprehensive and concise or intricate and unclear? Can you see the purpose of this cover letter? Do you see how the person is going to be of use to your company? Is this cover letter necessary? Does it add something to what you already know about the person from their resume?

Choosing the right words to end your cover letter

Finish your letter by thanking them for taking the time to read your letter and considering you for the position. A weak, impersonal ending will leave the employer wondering whether you are really motivated for the job you are applying for - so demonstrate your enthusiasm, confidence, and zeal, remind them how you will contribute to the company, how valuable you will be and don’t hesitate to ask for an interview. Most cover letter writers don’t explicitly state that they would like an interview for a job right ahead.

Some professional resume and cover letter writing companies think that you have more chances to get an interview if you ask for one. You can write: “Please call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX to arrange an interview at your earliest convenience” or any other. You may also write that you will follow up in some time with a phone call or email to make sure that your application was received and read. Demonstrate initiative.But do keep to your promise and follow up if you indicated this intention in your cover letter.

Best examples of cover letters

There are hundreds of them on the Internet. Of course, a cover letter should correspond to the industry you are working for and be clear and precise.

There are plenty of examples all over the Internet. You can print “cover letter samples” in the google search and find hundreds of them. Finance, Automotive, Retail, Medical, changing careers cover letter, the one tailored for a recruiter, cover letter for an internship. You can also have a look at Monster cover letter samples - they are quite nice.

In which cases do I need to have my cover letter written by a professional?

You might need to ask for help from professional resume writing and cover letter services when you are not sure about the quality of your writing. If you have serious doubts about your written English you can refer to a specialist to proofread your cover letter or to write it for you.

If you don’t feel like paying a certain sum to CV and cover letter writing services, there are still some options for free help with resume and cover letter writing. Some companies offer a cover letter review service. Some also offer cover letter editing packages. Although not completely free, this service is an advanced form of a review and can be cheaper than cover letter writing from scratch. Anyway, a cover letter writing service is not at all expensive - it is rarely higher than $60 even at top resume companies.

When is the time to write a cover letter

A cover letter help is not an obvious decision for most of us. We will be totally clear about that - you always have to write a cover letter, except for the cases when in the position you are looking for it is explicitly indicated that you don’t need to send them your cover letter. For all the other cases it is better to have one. If you feel like it. There are some cases for which you are strongly advised to have a cover letter written. These are situations when you have to explain your situation to your employer. This might be the case of a big unemployment gap, relocation to another state or country, career change - all the situations when your employment history might look a bit disrupted to your potential employer.

Another case comes when you apply to a particular position and want to impress your potential employer by creating a customized cover letter with all the details necessary. Nowadays the myth says that you no longer need to hand in your cover letter to an employer and the resume is completely enough. Our answer is no, in many cases only sending your resume can work against you. The recent study shows that it takes a recruiter up to 7 seconds to get a first impression about your resume. Everyone has written about it, and the companies which write resumes are completely aware of it. The cover letter is a rather simple add-on but it is something that makes you stand out. The additional reason for writing a cover letter is that resumes are impersonal. They don’t tell anything about their owner except for their job record. What if you have something to impress your recruiter with? A cover letter is a way of explaining things and getting your message across, of showing who you are and what your motivations might be. I guess small employers will definitely appreciate it.

One more case, if you're applying for a position that isn't publicly open or doesn’t exist, you are strongly advised to write a cover letter. Your intent should be well stated, because you not only need to show the company how you and your skills and qualifications would benefit them, but also how the new job post you are suggesting will bring them extra value, and how you will fit with this company’s corporate culture. A visual demonstration of what has been discussed

Source: Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/487514728388945052/

Conclusion

As a final remark, we don’t want to be formalistic. There are no fixed rules that are going to earn you success and appreciation. At the end of the day, you have to remember that the article you reading now is going to be read by hundreds or probably thousands of people. More than that, a resume and cover letter help has been subject to numerous articles and most of the recommendations in this article were taken from all over Internet.

You may ask, is this a good or bad new for me? The answer is it is both good and bad. It is good because it helps you find the most important milestones and core clues that help you craft a perfect cover letter. It is bad because you are not the only one who is going to implement these rules in your own cover letter.

So, you should never limit yourself to what is offered in the articles or specialized literature. The only reason for this is you have to make sure that the cover letter truly translates your inspirations and goals and puts your message across to an employer you seek.

A short summary

    Paragraphs you have to include in your cover letter:
  • Introductory paragraph. Should be short, informative and friendly. Outline a statement of the relevant 2-3 reasons you are a good candidate for the open position. Think of it as the topic sentence, limit this paragraph to 3 sentences in most situations.
  • First core paragraph - a general introduction of your experiences.
  • Second core paragraph - how exactly you match your employer’s needs. In these paragraphs, you can support your topic sentence by highlighting 2-3 of your best examples of academic, internship or work experience related to your position. Provide more additional detail than you included in your resume.
  • Thanking the reader for their time and suggestions for further contact. It would be a good idea to restate your interest in the interesting position and indicate that you have also enclosed your resume in case they are interested (and any other materials they might require from you). Encourage your prospective employer to arrange an interview.
    Ultimate checklist for drafting your cover letter:
  1. Define your target audience, choose the template, identify the key points to help reach out to your audience.
  2. Use nice fonts. Arial, Arial Narrow, Calibri, Verdana, Garamond, Georgia, or Trebuchet in 11 or 12 sizes. It should not differ from your resume font too much.
  3. Pay attention to your sentence structure so every sentence doesn’t begin with “I.” Repetitiveness doesn’t look good especially in such a short document. Avoid the same structures all over the text.
  4. Don’t try to be too original. Stick to the golden middle, it is appealing to people.
  5. Don’t apologize for any experience you consider you are lacking. Your letter should have a convincing tone. Use only positive statements.
  6. Avoid complex paragraphs and sentences. Especially if you are writing a T cover letter. Go directly to the core. Use action verbs that will help you convey your message in a clear manner.
  7. Check the best practices of cover letter writing and analyze the best moments. You can use the best sentence structures and adapt it to your cover letter.
  8. Proof, proof, and proof again. Spell check and grammar check. Read it out loud, slowly. Ask your friend, teacher, parents or anybody else to read it. You cannot underestimate this factor.

A good cover letter should demonstrate qualities you want your potential employer to notice, such as excellent communication skills, motivation, clear thinking, thoughtfulness, interest in others, reliability, neatness, and so on. If you manage to do it all - you’ll land your dream job.