Cover Letters: They’re No Joke


I remember writing my first cover letter. Beyond not really knowing how to format it, I did not know what exactly to write about. How long should it be? How is it different from a resume? Should I write a different one for each job? In essence, a cover letter helps to illustrate, beyond what your resume can provide, why your experiences and skills are a best match for the specific needs or qualifications of a position. Our Cover Letter Example and Steps to Cover Letter Success help to get you started. I hope to provide a little extra advice and sample writing to make sure your cover letter helps you stand out for the position you want.

Introduction

Express enthusiasm for the position and the organization.

  • I [try out an enthusiastic verb or adjective] to [describe a goal or ambition] that [describe a value or purpose behind the goal] by [describe an action or method to accomplish the goal].
  • “I am excited to work in a not-for-profit health system that integrates diversity, equity and inclusion into an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion by focusing on the health needs of LGBTQ community members.”

End your introduction with a sentence that expresses your main idea. Consider a brief list of skills, knowledge, or abilities that reflect what you discuss in your supporting paragraphs. If your reader does not read beyond your introduction, let this sentence summarize what you have to offer.

  • I hope to apply my [skills/knowledge/abilities/experience] in [2-3 examples] to [describe a task or goal related to the position or organization].
  • “I hope to apply my skills in project management, leadership, and data analysis to support a diverse portfolio of projects in this healthcare system.”

Supporting Paragraph(s)

Identify relevant experiences and provide enough contextual details so the reader understands your role and responsibilities. 

  • “During my time as a billing specialist at the Atlanta Physical Therapy Clinic, I led the training of two new hires by creating an instruction handbook and recording training videos.”
  • “As an administrative intern at Piedmont Athens Regional hospital, I have enjoyed providing updates to our staff about our outpatient center expansion. During each update, I specifically followed up with frontline staff affected by significant changes to seek their thoughts about how the project can continue to support patient care outcomes.”

Comment on the skills/knowledge/abilities that this experience helped you to develop. Reflect on the purpose of your tasks or how you accomplished goals in order to say something different from your resume.

  • “I learned to reflect on the foundational knowledge needs of our team so that everyone could be on the same page regarding our clinic operations.”
  • “Collecting this feedback and distributing timely communication supported the ability for leadership to make impactful decisions as the expansion developed.”

Close with how these skills apply to the position as described in the job posting or as you anticipate the needs of the position/organization. The more directly you can relate what you have done to what you hope to be doing for the position, the better match you can demonstrate between your qualifications and the hiring needs of the organization. You can incorporate language that clearly mentions the job description.

  • “Your job description mentioned that leadership skills will be crucial in this role, and I hope to further develop this skill set when directing others on a task force or participating in strategic planning.”
  • “I noticed in your description that excellent communication skills will be vital in this position. I hope to apply my experience of communicating with a wide team on long-term initiatives to contribute to committee work and meet the needs of project sponsors.”

Conclusion

Echo your introduction in the opening sentence to remind your reader what makes you most interested in this position and organization. Leave your reader with an encompassing final thought.

  • “I prefer to apply these skills and experiences to contribute to Advocate Aurora Health Care and feel like my work will make a difference to communities that need specialized administrative efforts to support their healthcare needs.”

Close with your eagerness to hear back and gratitude.

  • “Please feel free to contact me anytime at [phone number] or [e-mail address]. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how I can serve this organization, and thank you for your consideration.”

Additional Advice

Remember transition sentences at the beginnings of your paragraphs. Try to flow from one idea to the next while providing a topic sentence that encapsulates the point of the new paragraph.

  • “I value collaborating with a team when it comes to serving as a leader.”
  • “When planning for the needs of a team, I desire to implement what my program has taught me about analyzing, understanding, and explaining data.”

Write in your own voice without overusing jargon. A cover letter is a formal job application piece that has the opportunity to showcase a little more about who you are as a person. I recommend not getting lost in overuse of buzz words or technical terms. Try to express what you have genuinely enjoyed about your experiences and what motivates you to take this next step with this particular position and organization.

Like a resume, in most cases, try not to write much longer than a page unless you have a lot of relevant experience to describe. The longer the letter, the less likely your reader will have the time to review it thoroughly. Consider paragraphs that stay 3-5 sentences long to keep your ideas moving and your readers less overwhelmed by a long section to read through. If your resume uses narrow margins and 10-11 point font, consider a matching style for your letter that uses the same heading from your resume for name and contact information.

Customize your cover letter for each job if you can. A custom letter is a great way to stand out in your application so that your reader interprets your interests for the specific role that they have available. A generic letter that does not mention the needs of the position or values of the organization may not come across as very interested or interesting. If you are applying to the same type of job where your skills and experiences apply in very similar ways, consider what elements of your letter offer a customizable piece to discuss your interest in the specific organization that hosts these positions.

The Career Center is available to help you get started or to review your cover letter draft. Consider attending our Drop-In Hours to ask questions and discuss what ideas you have. Keep visiting until your cover letter is an excellent addition to your application. Happy writing!

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