Cover Letters Uncovered

by Valerie Kielmovitch

Bad Cover LetterYes!  You finally find the job posting for you and are ready to apply, but then you see it…submit a cover letter with your resume.  Your resume is top notch as you have been working on it for months, but you have never written a cover letter before and are uncertain of how to begin.  Let us uncover several top tips for generating a great cover letter.

One popular myth to uncover is that you can write one generic cover letter for all positions to which you are applying.  This is not the case, however, as it is important to tailor your cover letter to each specific position.  Find key words in the job description to include in your document, match them to your particular experiences and attributes, and integrate them into your cover letter.

Cover letters should go beyond the information that is included in your resume and really speak about your soft skills (i.e. communication, presentation abilities, etc.) that you have not included in your resume.  To expand on your related soft skills and accomplishments, you should include examples of accomplishments and achievements that will establish you as the ideal candidate for the position.

Another cover letter tip is that the format of a cover letter is important.  This document is considered a business letter, and everything is left justified on the page without any indentation.  You should also set up your cover letter in a 3-4 paragraph structure, which is described below.

You will begin your cover letter with your address, followed by the date and then the company contact information to include the contact’s title and address.  If you do not know a contact at the company, do some research on LinkedIn or Google to find a contact; if that is not possible, then address the letter to ‘Dear Human Resources Manager’ or ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ as it is more personable than the generic ‘To Whom it May Concern.’

The first paragraph should explain the position you are interested in and how you heard about it.  In addition, you can include information you know about the company or why you are interested in their organization.

The next paragraph(s) is/are where you discuss your skills, abilities, experiences, and education, all supported by concrete examples.  In this section you should concentrate on 2-3 traits and how you acquired and applied those.  Focus on how you can positively impact the company and what you can contribute.

The final paragraph is where you invite the employer to read over your resume to learn more information about your qualifications.  At this point you will want to make a call to action. This could include requesting a meeting/personal interview or stating that you will follow up with the employer in a certain amount of time. Make sure you thank the employer for their time and consideration of your application and include your contact information (both phone number and email address).

End the letter with a professional closing (i.e. Sincerely, Cordially) followed by four lines then your typed name.  If you print the letter, make sure you sign your name in black ink.  Including the word Enclosure will also signify that your resume is included as well.

Formatting aside, here’s another tip to uncover.  Writing an effective cover letter takes time and patience so make sure you begin early and give yourself plenty of time.

A final tip is to ask others to proofread the cover letter as you do not want any grammatical or spelling errors in the document.  Also ask the person to review the cover letter for clarity and use of strong, positive language.

Cover letters can communicate so much more than just what is written on the resume, so it is imperative that you uncover the best cover letter tips and use them to your advantage.  To find samples and more resources, please visit the Career Services website.

Valerie Kielmovitch has been working as a Program Manager in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for nearly two years.  She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Florida and Master of Education specializing in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of South Carolina.  Valerie has a diverse background in the field of higher education from residence life to career services.


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