How to write a cover letter

How to write a cover letter that will get you noticed

WRITTEN BY: Janelle Vreeland
How to write a cover letter

A cover letter is the FIRST first impression you’ll make on a potential employer or hiring manager. Your resume is important, yes, but no hiring manager will open your resume file attachment if they don’t like your cover letter. There are simply too many candidates per job opening. That's why it's important that you learn right now hot to write a cover letter well.  In three or four succinct, compelling paragraphs, you need to convince employers to take a closer look.

If you’re new to how to write a cover letter – or looking for tips on how to improve – follow the guidelines below to write a great cover letter and  significantly increase your chances for a call back.

  1. Make sure the job really is a good fit. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But hiring managers receive overly-general letters or letters that are not a good fit all the time. How to write a cover letter? Not like that. Big mistake. Your resume is already in the trash can.
  2. Carefully read and use the job description. There may be explicit instructions, e.g. “include a link to your portfolio in your cover letter.” The fastest way write a coverletter that will simply get tossed is to ignore the instructions.
  3. When you’re ready to learn how to write a cover letter, choose your format depending on the situation. If you’re sending a paper cover letter, use business letter conventions, including line spacing, date and address. If you’re writing an email cover letter, the date and your contact information will probably suffice. Don’t use fancy formatting, especially in an email. Keep it simple, organized and easy to read.
  4. Follow instructions about document type, especially when submitting a cover letter online. If the employers want you to send the cover letter as an attachment or upload it to their company site, they’re probably printing it, so write it as you would a business letter and send as a PDF or Word document. Make sure to print out a version yourself first to make sure it looks good and is easy to read. If the employers want you to paste the cover letter in an email, keep it plain text. Their email reader might not render your formatting correctly.
  5. When learning how to write a cover letter, know to address your letter to a specific contact person at the company. “To Whom It May Concern” should only be used when it’s impossible to determine the contact’s name.
  6. Get the first paragraph right. This is your chance to shine. Be specific about why you’re a good fit for the position you’re applying for. Don’t be vague or general. When learning how to write a cover letter, never copy out a form letter you found online!