A cover letter is your introduction to a potential employer. The cover letter is not a repeat of your resume; rather it is a statement of interest in a particular company. It is the opportunity for you to summarize the qualities and skills that will pique the interest of the reader to look at your resume. The more research you do before the initial contact with a company representative, the more prepared you will be, to show them that your alignment with their needs.
Three Parts of Cover Letter
- The 1st paragraph is the opening, where you identify the purpose of the letter, whether it is to seek general information or to pursue a particular position. You should indicate how you identified the opportunity, be it through the organization’s website or though a personal referral, for example. This is the first opportunity you have to express your interest in the company as well as the opportunity itself.
- The 2nd paragraph is the place where you help the reader see how you would like to align your interests and abilities with their goals and needs. Relate to the job description and what the company is seeking. This is your opportunity to let the employer know that you are aware of their needs and you are ready and able to fill those needs. If there is anything in your background that might be of special interest, you should indicate this in the second paragraph as well. Do not spend too much space complimenting the company, as they already know about themselves and are more interested in learning about you.
- The 3rd paragraph is the closing, where you once again express your interest in the company and your excitement relating to the specific position. It is important to state your plans to follow up in a timely manner, rather than "hoping to hear from you soon". Let them know that you intend to be proactive in your job search, which is often very appealing to a potential employer. Make sure you provide a reliable mechanism to contact you.
Cover Letter DON’Ts
To ensure that your cover letters are well-written, avoid the following mistakes:
- Don’t exceed one page (unless you have extensive experience or publications).
- Don’t have grammatical, punctuation, or spelling errors.
- Don’t simply repeat what is in the resume.
- Don’t use pre-printed form letters rather than individually typed letters.
- Don’t type on paper other than resume bond paper.
- Don’t have lengthy paragraphs. Avoid run-on sentences.
- Don’t forget to sign the letter, which would indicate a lack of attention to detail.
- Don’t use overly informal language, as this is your first chance to make an impression. Avoid using Aggie centric phrasing, such as “Howdy” or “Gig ‘em.”
- Don’t include inappropriate information and do not omit critical data.
Cover Letter Checklist
Before sending a cover letter, check the following list
- Is the letter original and specific to the position?
- Have you addressed the letter to the right person, including appropriate gender and correct name spelling?
- Will the letter capture the reader’s attention?
- Have you specified what you want to do for the company in order to meet its particular needs?
- If you are responding to a job posting or advertisement does the letter address the requirements of the position as specified by the company?
- Have you included personal accomplishments as well as future goals?
- Does your letter reflect confidence rather than arrogance?
- Did you avoid repeating details from you resume in your cover letter?
- Is the format attractive, neat, and organized?
- Have you checked for spelling and grammatical errors?
- Is it one page or less in length?
- Is the language concise?
- Have you used active rather than passive verbs?
- Did you indicate when you would contact them?