Applying to jobs is difficult. When you’re trying to separate yourself from a pool of candidates, and there is an online application that only asks for education, work experience, and a resume, it’s hard to differentiate yourself. That is where the cover letter can play a significant role in showcasing your skills, accomplishments, and overall interest and passion for the company or industry. Here are a few tips for an effective cover letter:
1) Use the Correct Headings and Formatting
Although it may be an electronic submission, including the company’s name, corporate headquarters address, date, and “Dear xxx hiring manager” or “Dear xxx human resources department” on the left-hand side of the page is a good practice. According to the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina, using a standard 12 size font and Times New Roman or Arial is mostly accepted as professional communication.
2) Include 3-5 paragraphs, Double Space Between Paragraphs
The first paragraph should address what role you are applying to and why you are interested in that specific company. The second paragraph should include your background and specific experiences that make you a qualified candidate. Supporting paragraphs can include specific projects that you worked on that is directly applicable to the position. The final paragraph should re-summarize your interest in the role and thank the company for taking the time to consider your application. The paragraphs should be single spaced, with double space in between each paragraph.
3) Include Networking Activities and Measurable Action
The first paragraph is a good place to name-drop any people that you may have networked with inside the company. A way to phrase the sentence is “Based off my discussions with xxx”. For the supporting paragraphs where you are describing projects or specific experience, it’s helpful to include quantifiable information such as increased revenue % or cost savings, but do not overload with stats.
4) Signature at End
After the final paragraph, where you have thanked the company for considering your application and that you look forward to next steps, you can sign off on the letter by using “sincerely” or “best regards” and then double space and enter your name. It is a good practice to include your email signature which may include your name, phone, email, and school/company. There is no need to insert an actual digital signature.