The cover letter (or email) for a resume is usually the most conversational element of an application and may be used by recruiters to assess personality. It presents an opportunity to make a good impression. If done well, recruiters will start to look on you favorably as a prospective colleague and want to give you an interview.
Depending on the evaluation style of the recruiter, the cover letter may be closely read or quickly scanned and forgotten. The safest assumption is that it will be scrutinized closely for faults but ready quickly for content. This means you need to be concise and accurate.
There is no particular format for a cover letter and it is important to adjust your style and content to suit the job and reader.
We outline an approach here that is generally considered good practice. The goal is to show, without simply reproducing resume content, that you’re qualified and have something special to offer.
Introduction – why you’re writing
As with any correspondence, the cover letter starts by explaining its purpose. This can be done quickly. In the email or mail header, put down something like “Application for position YY”. Follow up with a short first paragraph along the lines of “I’m writing to apply for the analytical position your company advertised. Please find my resume attached in support of this application”.
Why I’m qualified
The recruiter will want to know whether you are a genuine candidate for the position before reading the rest of the cover letter and the resume. So use the second paragraph to establish this convincingly. Look at the requirements of the position and then sum up your qualifications and experience in a way that shows that you’re suited to the job.
What you bring
Having established your credentials, the next paragraph or two represent an opportunity to sell yourself as a promising candidate. Try to highlight your exceptional qualities or experiences and your passion for the line of work. Keep any descriptions of the job general. Even with good research about the company and occupation, you may not fully grasp what the job entails.
Sign off – what will happen next
The sign off can be brief; for example, ‘I look forward to hearing from you about this application and would welcome the opportunity to interview for the position … Yours sincerely, …”.
After you submit an application, it’s generally up to the recruiter to initiate any further contact. Only after they have shown interest, such as by offering an interview, do we recommend contacting them to seek more information about the role or selection process.
Cover letter examples
Dear Ms Johnson,
I’m writing to apply for the above position, which was advertised in the Times Union on April 30. I‘m currently in the final year of a BA course in Business Economics at City College, Bristol, and expect to graduate in June this year. The degree has prepared me for a range of roles in economic and business analysis.
I have a 4.0 average in relevant modules, including Economic Data Analysis, International Economics, and Economics of Business Strategy. I’ve also learned a great deal about e-commerce and am about to complete a dissertation on the growth of e-commerce in the Americas.
The position is of particular interest because it requires good communication and negotiation skills. I enjoy working with numbers and concepts but also making new contacts and establishing relationships with a wide range of people. To illustrate, as a teaching assistant, I had great success liaising with Mexican companies to organize student activities. I believe I would be able to provide quality service to the international clients you describe by drawing on highly relevant education and skills.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Vacancy for Social Worker, Davis County Youth & Family Services
I’m writing in reply to your ad for the above position, which appeared in the Clipper on May 9 and attach my résumé for your attention.
I’m currently studying for a BA in Social Work at Thurston College, Layton, and will be graduating in June 2013. This will make me a fully qualified social worker in the state of Utah.
I have a real enthusiasm and flair for working with children and have extensive experience teaching elementary school children. A new career in social work would make excellent use of the interpersonal, communication, and motivational skills gained in my teaching posts. I also have a long-standing interest in developing children’s sporting potential and am currently the manager of a youth soccer team.
As a social worker, I could make a real difference to the lives of the children and families of your area. I would welcome the chance to work for a local authority such as your own as part of a small team. One of my work placements during my degree was with a local authority of a similar size. I found the small team environment was an enjoyable and productive way to improve community welfare.
I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Dear Mr Burns
I’m very interested in the position of Administrative Assistant for Broad and Allen advertised in the Weekly Times on 30 January.
The skills and qualifications you seek match my experience in this area, as I:
- spent two years as Administrative Assistant in the Prospective Students Office of Monash University and am experienced with using a number of reporting tools and databases including Excel, Access, Lotus Notes and Crystal Reports
- assisted the General Manager of Saturn Satellites for two years providing administrative support, diary and appointment coordination and managing all travel and accommodation bookings for his busy and fast-paced schedule
- confidently work alone and in teams – in both situations I always complete tasks on time and enjoy assisting others to ensure that their tasks also come in on time and on budget
- am currently completing a part-time (evening) diploma of Human Resources at Northern Melbourne Institute of Technology. I’ve used the knowledge and skills gained from subjects including Managing Staff Development and Performance Management to assist in the coordination of staff training and performance reviews.
Enclosed is my resume for your review. I believe I am an excellent candidate for this role and look forward to meeting with you to discuss this position further.