Yes, you have to write a cover letter if you want to increase your value to the prospective employer, even if the employer/recruiter does not require one. The cover letter professionalizes your application for employment. It serves as a bridge to introduce your résumé when you are not there to submit it in person. The cover letter permits you to personalize the résumé and thereby create a relationship that motivates the employer to read your résumé with greater interest and attention.
The tone of your cover letter is the most important aspect of its content. A natural tone is only achieved when the letter is truly yours, not something you copied from a book. Use sample letters only as guides. The letter must sound like you.
Plan to write a customized cover letter for each different opportunity for which you apply. The letter should address the issues of why you want to work for that employer, why you are interested in the job, what objectives and goals you have in common with the company/organization, as well as mentioning any trusted referral sources. Enhance your writing by incorporating words that convey confidence, eagerness, freshness, optimism, friendliness, and energy. There are three main areas that you should include in a cover letter:
Part 1: Make the Match - The General Introduction
If you have been referred by someone known to the company, (an employee, an alumni, a fellow student who was their intern last semester, a professor, etc.) use that person's name in your opening paragraph, and indicate why the contact referred you to that particular company or position opening. If you do not have a personal referral, the introduction should quickly get to the point of why you are writing. Explain right away what you want and what you have to offer, much like an objective or profile summary on a résumé.
- "This letter is in response to the (blank position) recently posted on (name the website or publication that listed the job). Having recently completed a (your degree or training), I look forward to applying my skills and knowledge in (your key strengths) to a fulltime position in the (field)."
- "My (friend, neighbor, instructor name) suggested I contact you regarding a possible opening in the (department). As a graduating senior in (your major related to the department opening), I am eager to apply my preparation to an internship in the (field)."
Part 2: Make the Case - Tell Them Why They Should Hire You.
This section of the cover letter is where you build an arguement for why you should be hired by highlighting your key strengths and elaborating on points listed on your résumé. Do not repeat the content of your résumé, but point to the skills and experience in your résumé that relate to the position — point to, but do not repeat. Leave the details for the résumé. If you are able to make a compelling case for your candidacy in this section, the employer will look at your résumé for confirmation of your claims.
Write sentences that convey energy and incorporate keywords from the job description while enhancing your qualifications. Examples:
- "With work experience in fitness training, I know that I enjoy the challenge of working with clients to build their confidence."
- "Competing with the CSUF team in the American Advertising Federation regionals showed me that I thrive in competitive situations and love new ideas that improve my results."
- "From my experience as a volunteer helping with fund raisers for a local non-profit organization, I look forward to contributing my experience in organizing community events."
- "My coursework has helped me develop a love of learning new computer applications."
- "I have worked with children since I began babysitting in highschool and as a credential candidate, I have built stronger experience by completing two student teacher assignments in Title I classrooms."
Part 3: Make the Close - Finish Strong.
The last section of the cover letter is the "closing" paragraph in two ways: The last section "closes" the letter by recapping what you have to offer and how you are a fit for the position. As well, it contains a customary closing statement to conclude the letter. Maintain a confident tone that conveys positive energy.
In this last paragraph of the cover letter, suggest that the reader look at your résumé, give it positive consideration, and schedule you for an interview. Also, state what your own next action will be. The task is similar to the end of an interview. Everything has been said; now it remains to exit the process looking like a winner by extending the verbal equivalent of a firm handshake and friendly eye contact.
Avoid making comments in your closing paragraph that are beyond your control, such as "I will call you to schedule an interview", especially if you do not have access to the contact person or if the employer has stated "no phone calls please". You might be able to say "I will call your office", but be careful not to not make promises you are not sure you will be able to keep.
Examples of cover letter closing paragraphs:
- "Enclosed is my résumé for your consideration. You will see demonstrated perseverance, training in (your key skills) and knowledge of (your key strengths) that make me an ideal candidate for the position. I look forward to scheduling an interview at your earliest convenience."
- "I understand that (employer) will be conducting recruitment interviews at the Career Center on (date). Please include me on the list of candidates to be scheduled so that I may speak with you or your representatives in person about my qualifications for this exciting position."
Proofread Your Cover Letter
Naturally, your cover letter needs to be absolutely free of spelling and grammar errors. Proofread several times and find a knowledgeable ally to proofread after you. Try to pace your applications in a way that permits you to proofread your documents a day after you create them. The Career Center and the Writing Center can also help you proofread your letters.