First Impressions: How to Write a Great Cover Letter

After scouring what feels like thousands of job postings, you finally find The One. It’s the perfect job, and fits your qualifications and goals perfectly. In the posting, they ask you to submit your resume and a cover letter. You really want this job – so how do you write a cover letter that makes them want you?

Writing a cover letter can feel daunting, and it can be difficult to know where to start. First, let’s talk about the purpose of a cover letter.

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is often the first contact you have with an employer, and it’s critical to make a strong and lasting first impression. While your resume contains the nuts and bolts of your skills and experience, your cover letter is more personal. The cover letter explains your experience more in-depth, while connecting your qualifications to the requirements listed for this particular job.

Step One: Create an Outline.

Remember your high school days, when you had to create outlines for your essays? It seems like a pain, but it’s an essential step when you create your cover letter. An outline gives you the framework for your cover letter and also ensures that the content is well organized. If you’re like me, you may find yourself getting distracted and going off on a tangent (I like to call this “Shiny Object Syndrome”). An outline keeps you on track and focused on what you need to say. A typical cover letter contains an intro paragraph, a paragraph outlining how your experience relates to the job you’re applying for, and a closing paragraph.

Make it Personal.

You’ll need to convince the hiring manager that you are perfect for this job. How do your skills and professional history directly relate to this position? What will you do for their company? Which leads me to…

Do Your Research.

Go to the company website and get to know the organization. What is the company’s mission? What makes you want to work for them? Take notes if you need to, and pay attention to the tone of their website, whether it is informal, academic, or strictly business. Then take what you’ve learned and integrate it into your cover letter.

[Don’t] Curb Your Enthusiasm.

You’re psyched about this job – go ahead and show it. People love compliments! Don’t go overboard or you’ll sound like you’re trying too hard, but tell them why you would love to work for them and why this opportunity excites you.

Keep it Short and Sweet.

A cover letter shouldn’t be more than 3/4 of a page in most cases, unless they ask for something longer. In that space, you should be able to outline why you are the perfect fit for the position.

Ask for Feedback.

After you write your cover letter, show it to a trusted friend (preferably someone who writes well) and get their feedback. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes.

Have a great day!

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