How to Write a Cover Letter

There is nothing else in this world much more enjoyable than attempting to impress someone you don’t know so that they’ll give you a job. The hours spent browsing for open positions online, trying your darndest to perfect your resume, and wiping off the sweat from your hands before walking into an interview. On top of all the blood, sweat, and tears you already poured into securing your job, now you have to write a cover letter. You can always opt out of sending a personalized cover letter in, but you always risk the chance of being labeled lazy before you even get to prove yourself.

A well-written cover letter is HIGHLY recommended when applying to near every job you apply for. If after hours of scrounging the deep recesses of the internet and finding your dream position, you wouldn’t want to be outclassed by someone with the exact same credentials just because they sent in a cover letter. Cover your hide and play the safe game. Send in a cover letter.

How do you write a cover letter? What should you include in a cover letter? How long should your cover letter be? These are all questions that might be swarming around your head right now. You might even have a couple more on the bench right now, waiting to get their spotlight. There are some basic Do’s and Don’ts’ of cover letter writing, as well as several general tips about layout and content. It is with the hope of you reading this that you’ll be steered in the right direction. Who knows, maybe you’ll outclass another applicant for the position you want with a spiffy, brand-new cover letter.

Basic Information

Now that you know that it’s probably a good idea to write a cover letter, what exactly is a cover letter? A cover letter is essentially a personalized introduction about you. These letters are usually a page long and stand within the range of 250 – 400 words. Cover letters are meant to supplement your resume, and allow you to elaborate more on certain subjects that you might not have been able to fully flesh out before. Think of your cover letter as the wingman (or woman) to your resume.

Personalized Greeting

People absolutely adore the thought of themselves, and starting off with a personalized greeting is the best (and quickest) way to get it in good with the hiring manager. This greeting doesn’t have to be anything special. You’re not writing a love letter about how you long to a distant lover again. Make it quick and simple. Find the name of the hiring manager and address the letter to them. Would you rather read something addressed to you specifically, or have it say “To whom it may concern.” “Dear John Smith,” sounds a lot nicer.

Opening

You have got to come out swinging. You wouldn’t want the hiring manager to be lulled to sleep by your generic opener. There is no quicker way of sending your cover letter to the paper shredder than by writing Mad-libs style off of a template that you found online. Make it clear about what position your applying for, how you got it, and why you are the perfect candidate. For once in your life it’s a good idea to skip the foreplay and get right into the heart of it all. A strong opening should also include some actionable adjectives and adverbs. Don’t go to crazy though, you aren’t applying to be a Shakespearian playwright (unless maybe you are).

I was excited to come across your listing for the Technical Writer position at Beckman Coulter on Glassdoor.com

Your first sentence is direct and to-the-point. At this point you can brag a little bit and talk about why you’re the best candidate for the job. Talk about some achievements and merits that you’ve acquired for yourself through your travels. This section should only be a couple quick sentences. Three to four sentences seems to be the sweet spot.

Content

I hope you like talking about yourself, because this is pretty much all that you’re going to do. You are the best candidate for this position. You know that, I know that, your friends and family know that, so make them know that. This section is a direct response to the job listing. Do they need a new technical writer? Well, you’ve had experience within the industry for a couple years, and become extremely proficient at writing in a technical manner. Remember to quantify and be specific. You could say that you’ve worked in the industry for a couple years, but it sounds a little vague and lacking in that professional pizazz. It sounds quite a lot better to say:

I’m currently employed at Larson & Sadie, where I have honed my skills in detailing A through C grade medical technologies. While employed here for the past five years, I spearheaded the technical writing team to increase our turn-around rate by 23%.

Do I have any idea what any of this means? Not a damn clue, but you sure will.

Not only do you want to be the perfect candidate for the position, but the company as well. Talk about how confident you are in what you bring to the table. Make the hiring manager believe that without you their company wouldn’t survive. While this probably won’t be the case, it might be a good idea to talk as if you are already a vital part of the company. If you would like to highlight several accomplishments in a row, you can also include a bulleted section. This section can be anywhere from 2 – 3 sections.

Closing Time

It’s closing time and you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. There’s nothing more annoying than reading a cover letter the drudges on with no end in sight. Keep it simple and quick like the rest of the letter so far. At this point type out something along the lines of how much you look forward to discussing the position in further detail at a future date and how grateful you are for the opportunity.

I look forward to discussing the Technical Writer position in further detail. I am available to talk to you are your earliest convenience. I will follow up with you in a week to make sure you got my application.

Thank you for your consideration, 

Sincerely,

The Perfect Candidate

Wrapping Up

Congratulations! You’ve successfully written a stellar cover letter that will swoon hiring managers all around. Good luck to you in all your future career goals and aspirations. In this job market, you’ll probably need it.