How to Write a Cover Letter

Cover letters are a must-have in today’s job world. Even if, sadly, most of them do not get read. Without one, you stand out as unprepared. With one, you stand a chance to catch the readers attention, present yourself and your resume in a little more detail and explain (briefly) why they should want you.

Do not put what you do not know, or what you want to know in your cover letter. The company wants to know what you can do for them; not what they can do for you. They are paying you – not the other way around.

Most cover letters are 3 paragraphs long. Any longer, and you will lose interest. Here is a break down of what should be in each paragraph:

Paragraph 1:
The job you are interested in, how you found out about it (especially if someone you know works there or told you about it), and a SHORT (1-2 sentences) explanation of why you think you’re the perfect fit for that position. Before writing, do a little bit of research on the company. If they are a small company, explain what you’re particular skill set can offer a small company. If they are looking for someone uber-organized, explain how you can take an un-organized office and revamp it. But remember, keep it short. Tell them, in 1-2 sentences why you fit, exactly, the position advertised.

Paragraph 2:
In this paragraph you can go into a little more detail about your experience and how you fit the position. Keep in mind, however, that you want to show how YOU fit THEIR needs NOT the other way around. They don’t care if you’ve always wanted to edit paperbacks; rather then helping your cause, that shows that you haven’t done what they need before. It presents you as untrained. Instead, focus on your positives and sell yourself. Explain how the things on your resume relate to their particular company and needs. Tell them that the experience you gained doing xyz (ex: running a club in college) will translate well when they need to you
to get other employees to work together and come up with creative solutions to problems (mention how you and your other drama club members brainstormed to raise money for your end of the year field trip to see a Broadway play).

Paragraph 3:
Mention the exact desired outcome of this letter: That they contact you. Then make it easy for them to do so, by including your phone number and/or email address. Finally, thank them for their time, showing that you appreciate that they are busy. (This is another reason why you want to keep your letter short – HR people and people who are not HR but are hiring employees have a lot of other things on their plate. They just want to find someone and be done with it. Show you understand that.)

Below I have included a sample cover letter – it’s actually the one I used to get my current job.

Dear XXXXXX,

I recently saw your ad on XXXXX for an assistant editor, and I am very interested in the position. I am set to graduate in May, a full year early, with my BA in English from Manhattanville College. In the fall, I plan to attend Pace University’s graduate program in Publishing. I have experience proofreading, copyediting, and writing feature articles, as well as a working knowledge of both Quark Xpress and Adobe Photoshop.

I am very interested in publishing and have been involved in a joint program with Manhattanville College and Pace University that has allowed me to take graduate publishing classes at Pace while finishing my undergraduate degree at Manhattanville. Thanks to this opportunity, I have taken Financial Aspects of Publishing, Professional Editing and Book Production and Design, so I am familiar with many different aspects of the publishing process.
I am currently finishing an internship with the Marketing Department at Manhattanville, where for the last several months I have dealt with vendors, processed invoices, managed marketing schedules, maintained the office, and copyedited and proofread ads. While there I have also helped create and implement new processes for handling marketing jobs and for tracking invoices.
Last fall I completed an internship with the Editorial Acquisitions department at Columbia University Press, where they asked me to stay and train their spring interns, something they ask their best intern to do each semester. While there I helped prepare manuscripts for publication, maintained their databases, and communicated with authors and reviewers.

I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to contact me by phone at (xxx) xxx-xxxx or by email at xxxxxxxxx. I have attached my resume. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Melissa Breau

Other relevant information:
How to Write a Resume
Advertising Yourself: Resume & Cover letter

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Explore posts in the same categories: Becoming Professional

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One Comment on “How to Write a Cover Letter”


  1. […] For How to KEEP the job once you have it, check out this Bosacks aticle (another great newsletter). How to write a cover letter How to write a resume Advertising yourself: Resume and Cover Letter Explore posts in the same […]


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