3 Important Elements of a Cover Letter

Writing a cover letter

The dreaded cover letter doesn’t have to be such an onerous activity. I am a great believer in keeping it simple when possible. Remember what the purpose of the cover letter is – to make the reviewer read your resumé. The cover letter your opportunity as an applicant to show off as to how well qualified you are for the job by accenting your skills and accomplishments. The cover letter is your sales piece to capture the attention of the reviewer and make them want to look at your resumé.

How do you begin? How long should a cover letter be? For lower level to mid-level positions, the cover letter should be no more than 1 page. For upper level management, the cover letter can be easily 2 pages, to address not only qualifications but other accomplishment related activities. The salutation of the letter is important. If you do not know the name of the person you are contacting and are not able to find out, stick with Dear Hiring Manager or Dear Hiring Team. Do not use To Whom It May Concern. That phase is considered old fashioned and can set the wrong tone for the start of your letter. The same goes for Dear Sir or Madam. Do not use it.

I break the cover letter into three parts that translates into 3-4 paragraphs:

  1. Show enthusiasm for the position. Your first sentence should reference the job title, but don’t be boring. How about something like this:

I was so pleased when I saw you are looking for a new Administrative Assistant for your Marketing Department. I believe my strong background would apply directly to the needs of this position in a busy company like Acme.”

  1. Meat and Potatoes. This is the body of your letter, I call it meat and potatoes because you want to give the reader something to chew on. This section is where you address the needs of the job as laid out in the job posting. Don’t forget to do the name drop! A job title or a company name is a name drop and may be the thing that drives the reader to look at your resumé, such as:

During my time at XYZ Company, I reported to the Marketing Manager, handling his daily calendar as well all of his travel arrangements. Strong computer skills were required, especially EXCEL spreadsheets and report generation for monthly meetings.”

Remember to carefully read the job description, pick out the skills that you can showcase, be clear and concise. This is where you can note accomplishments that highlight skills that translate to the new job. The length for this section can be 1-3 paragraphs for a lower, or mid-level positions. If you are going for upper management, your letter will be more expansive.

  1. The Ask. Ask for a meeting.

“I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how I could be an asset to your company. I can be reached at 555.555.5555. (Yes, give them your phone number again.) I look forward to hearing from you.”

Use the closing that is comfortable for you, I like – Best regards. And there you go, you have a tight cover letter, that addresses the needs of the job posting and showcases you as a good candidate for the next step in the hiring process.

Copyright 2017 Teri Maher