Cover Letters: An Outline to Get You Started

Hello!

Ah, such a nice day here in the city. I’m sitting in my “office” (a local cafe with free wi-fi, a beautiful garden, and great coffee), and just finished a client’s cover letter. I have to say, I have gotten to know this client very well and have been impressed with her skills from the get-go. She is a fascinating woman and I’m excited to see her succeed.

There are many ways to write a cover letter. For me, the cover letter is the best part of any package you send out into the world: it’s your opportunity to show hiring managers why you are the perfect candidate for their position. It’s also a place where you can let your personality really shine.

I like to address several things in a cover letter: first, an introduction about yourself – what sets you apart in your field in terms of your style, your skills and experience. In addition, it’s important to speak directly about the position you are applying for and why you want to work for this particular company.

Here’s a general outline to get you started when you write your cover letter. I use this outline for most of my clients’ cover letters and it seems to do the trick!

Part 1: How’d You Get Here?

In your first paragraph, let them know how you found out about the company and/or the position you are applying for. Tell them you believe you are a perfect fit for the position.

Part 2: Who Are You?

In the second paragraph, talk a bit about your experience as it directly relates to the position you are applying for. This is important – if you are applying for an accounting job, don’t go on and on about your last job in customer service. Keep it relevant.

Part 3: Your experience + their job = a perfect match!

Print out the job description and highlight the duties you have done in the past, and any preferred or required qualifications you meet. Then write about each one, methodically tying your experience and skills in with what they need.

Part 4: Close the Deal.

Lastly, tell them why you want to work for them and make them believe they are the only job you are applying for. This may not be the case, and you don’t have to lie, but make them feel as if they are the only company in the world. Nobody likes to read something that seems insincere or canned (which is why I never, ever use templates!).

Why do you want to work there? Think about their values, their work environment, and quickly reiterate how your skills and experience make you the perfect fit for the position. Tell them you would love to set up a time to speak with them about this exciting opportunity.

More tips in a bit! In the meantime, good luck, and as always feel free to contact me if you need any help!

~Robin

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I enjoyed your thoughts, and they talleyed with my efforts at cover letter writing — although your thoughts were far more clear than my efforts. I have a question. There are so many on-line applications now, I live and work overseas, and much of the hiring is done this way, which makes working your network difficult and, i think, the cover letter all the more important. However, there is rarely a place to add a cover letter on these on-line systems. Today I was filing an application, and I decided to use the comment section at the very end to send a cover letter — otherwise I had no place to say just the things that you highlighted. I wonder what happens to those comments. I haven’t been on the other side of this process, so I don’t know if they are printed and attached to the resume, deleted, laughed over and then deleted…..any ideas?

    1. robin2therescue says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for writing! You made a good point. Many of these online applications do make it difficult to send a cover letter. You have a few choices, though. I think you have the right idea – if you write your letter in the comment section, chances are, it will be read. As far as whether it is attached to the resume, it depends on the web application they use. It should always be attached. And no, they won’t laugh at you. 😉 In fact, many applicants may overlook the comments section, which means you are part of a select few who actually send a letter at all. That’s a good thing!

      The only other alternative in this case is to find an email address on the company’s actual website to send a follow-up letter to. This follow-up can act as a sort of cover letter. You say something like “I recently applied online for the position of _____ at your organization, and hope you have a chance to review my resume. I would also like to tell you a bit about my background….” and proceed with your cover letter. Do whatever you can to virtually get “in front” of them. Be creative with how you do this. In an age where we seldom relate to one another face-to-face, the more personal you can be, the better. Hope that helps!

      ~Robin

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