Posted by Brian McCullough
Someone tweeted me the other day that I had plenty of content on this blog relating to resumes, but not much regarding cover letters. So, I’d like to change that this week.
Let’s start with the basics: what should be in a cover letter?
To be really honest with you, cover letters aren’t complicated things. In fact, in my opinion, when it comes to cover letters, simplicity is key. If there’s one mistake I see time and time again, it’s that people try to write a novel in their cover letters. That is simply not necessary. A cover letter is a little bit formality and a little bit promotional tool. All you really need to do is say who you are, say what you want, thank the reader, and get out.
The 6 Things That Should Be In Every Cover Letter
A cover letter only needs 6 main components:
Header/Contact Info. You should simply put your name and contact info at the top of the cover letter. Trying to match the design, or look and feel of your resume is probably advisable. In fact, if you can match the look of your cover letter to the look of your resume, this helps “brand” and keeps your paperwork from being misplaced.
Greeting. This is a letter, so, make a formal introduction. “To Whom It May Concern” is good if you don’t know who the cover letter is going to. But it’s obviously far better if you know the name of the person who’s reading. “Dear Mr. Burns,”
Intro Paragraph. This is a short paragraph, 2-3 sentences at most, where you introduce yourself and say what position it is that you’re applying for. I’m serious. 2-3 sentences tops. I’m this sort of professional; I’m applying for this job; I believe I’m qualified because of these reasons.
Who I Am Paragraph. The 2nd paragraph of a cover letter should be 3-5 sentences, and should tell the reader something about you as a professional. What you’ve done in the past. What sort of qualifications you have. Why you’d be good for the position in question.
Thank You Paragraph. And the LAST paragraph of a cover letter should just say, thank you for considering me, here is how you can contact me (at your convenience, of course) and I look forward to hearing from you. 2-3 sentences tops.
Your Name And Signature.
That’s it. A cover letter should be short and sweet. It’s not meant to supplement your resume. In fact, it should repeat things that are in your resume (highlights of course). But it certainly shouldn’t compete with your resume for attention. Again, the cover letter is just an introduction for your resume.
I strongly recommend staying to the 3 paragraph template I outline above. Maybe 4-5 paragraphs in extreme situations. But I can’t stress enough, you really want your cover letter to be one page only. A resume can be more than one page, but a cover letter shouldn’t.