Cover Letter Guide
The cover letter is one of your marketing documents (in addition to your resume) and your opportunity to bring additional focus to your resume with a specific reader in mind. You will write a unique and well-researched letter for every opportunity to which you apply. Before you begin constructing your cover letter, we encourage you to consider your lens. What we mean is that we want you to adopt the mindset, or lens, of the person who will make the hiring decision.
- What are the most important qualities needed to be successful in this role?
- What type of candidate will progress to the interview?
Many of the answers you seek are found in the job description or through a conversation with a professional who works for the organization. Use all of these resources to identify the most important messages that you need to convey about your story in the cover letter. A Cover letter is an opportunity to tell your story in a compelling way by making a claim and substantiating that claim with examples. It follows much of the same structure as an essay.
- Present a clear thesis.
- Provide evidence to support your claims.
- Bring the story to a close with a succinct and compelling conclusion.
Not sure a cover letter is necessary? Think of the cover letter as part of the resume. If someone asks for a resume, send a resume plus a cover letter, unless there is an explicit request otherwise. This is standard practice. Also, if you are applying online and have a small text box in which to provide additional information, consider this an opportunity for a mini-cover letter.
Steps to Success
If you are new to cover letter writing, take this short course to get an overview of the most important aspects of a successful cover letter. In this course, you will learn about the purpose, value, and ways to prepare and develop a strong letter.
Use evidence to build credibility around every claim in your letter. The reader wants to believe you and needs detailed illustrations of your past success to do so. If you have included more than a couple of claims (two or three are sufficient) about your ability to thrive in the job, you are sacrificing depth for breadth and duplicating the work that the resume should do. Move extra information for the cover letter to the resume to improve it and trust the resume.