By Peer Career Coach Xochitl Castel

If you have ever come across “Cover Letter (optional)” on a job posting and skipped it, you are in the right place. A common mistake job-seekers make is opting out of submitting a cover letter with a job application. By the end of this article, you will be convinced to always include a cover letter on job applications.

What is a cover letter and why would I benefit from submitting one?

In order to know why cover letters are important, first you should know what a cover letter is. A cover letter is a detailed explanation of your key accomplishments and abilities. It differs from a resume in that it is a formal letter, written in full sentences, that delves deeper into a couple specific experiences that have led you to apply to the position in question.

There are two major benefits from writing an effective cover letter: you can showcase your voice and personality, and it allows recruiters to differentiate you from other candidates with similar resumes. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, but we sometimes end up with the same job positions, what makes your story unique? Use the cover letter to identify your career goals and the reason for having that goal. Keep in mind, the story should only be a few sentences long and must be complemented by experiences that show how you have worked towards achieving your goal. 

Okay, I’m ready to begin my letter!

Before you actually begin typing, here is a quick formatting overview and things to keep in mind.

Header/Contact info: You want your resume and cover letter to look like one cohesive package when you submit it. To achieve this you should use the same font, colors, and especially the same header from your resume (simply copy & paste). This will also ensure all your contact information is found on your letter, which is a requirement! 

Salutation: Conduct research on the company you are applying to and try to find the actual name of the hiring manager. If you cannot find the person’s name, use a generic salutation, for example, “Dear Hiring Manager”. In either case, avoid using gender-specific titles (i.e., Mr., Mrs., Miss).

Intro: Each cover letter should be personalized for the specific company and position you are applying to so you should address the name of the company and the position in the introduction. Do not open with a generic introduction about how you are confident your skills fit the needs of the company – it is more common than you think. Be unique and true to who you are!

Closing and General Note: Thank the reader for their time and consideration and restate your enthusiasm for the opportunity to apply. As with the resume, limit this letter to one page!

4 steps to write an effective cover letter:

  1. Think about your story and grasp the reader’s attention with a strong first paragraph. What makes you unique? What are you passionate about (and is relevant to the job)?
  2. Relate yourself to the company. What makes them an attractive employer? Have you admired their work for a long time? Do you follow news on their company? If you have been referred to the position be sure to mention their name.
  3. Describe how you qualify for the position and how you can contribute to the company. Highlight relevant experiences from your resume as you refer to the job posting and elaborate on the tasks and your solutions. Use actual key words from the job posting so it is picked up easily. Avoid using bullet points as your resume does enough of that. 
  4. End on a high note. Always speak highly of yourself (with humility of course) because this is your chance to sell yourself to the employer. Show excitement and dedication to the role. 

Career Services is here to help!

As always, we are here to review your documents and offer the best possible advice! Upload your documents to Handshake for us to review and you can schedule an appointment with a Career Coach or Peer Career Coach. Review our updated Cover Letter Guide here.

Cover Letters: Are they worth my time? YES!