It's likely that you did not have a cover letter when you applied for your first job. And why would you? Society has taught us that most minimum wage paying jobs are not formal enough to require a cover letter. But what is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that accompanies your resume when you apply for a job. This document is meant to help you introduce yourself to your future employer, and it explains why you would be a good fit for the job. A cover letter is meant to complement a resume by addressing the information your resume cannot cover, as well as further elaboration on the details it enlists. A well-crafted cover letter paired with a well-written resume can offer a more descriptive insight for an employer as to who is applying for the job.
All cover letters should begin with both the contact information for yourself as well as
your future employer. A quick tip: try to only put your phone number, name and email as ways of contact. Only add your address if specifically asked for. Including an address may restrict your options of occupations, and employers might not be interested if you live a good distance away. This is true even if you are interested in relocating.
Next comes the introduction. This is a short paragraph where you tell your future employer who you are and what position you are applying for. This often includes how you heard about the company or the position. It is important to note that you should never start off with “To whom it may concern.” This is informal and it is very common. If you want to stand out and impress your future employer, do some research. Find out on LinkedIn who will be interviewing you, or you can call the company and ask. But this little extra something will show you have drive.
The second paragraph is where you sell yourself. In this section, you’ll describe your skill set and abilities, as well as relevant past job experiences. Use examples from your past occupations and relate them to the qualifications specified for the job. One way to really personalize the cover letter for the employer is to word and reference your skill sets in a way that directly answers the qualifications and skills specified in the job posting. It's important not to oversell yourself, but also don’t sell yourself short. Make it seem like you are truly the best fit for the position.
The third and final paragraph is where you wrap it all up. Tell your future employer that you would love to sit down with them for an interview. Mention that there is more about you that you would like to elaborate on. Add that you will be in contact with them in about a week’s time for a follow-up. And, most importantly, thank them for taking the time to read over your qualifications.
Lastly, don't forget to double check your work. A single grammatical or spelling error will make you appear unprofessional. When you use names, make sure you spell them correctly too.
Below is an example of a cover letter template from thebalance.com:
Your Phone Number
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
I am interested in the author's assistant position at ABC Company, as advertised in XXX. I am currently employed as legislative director for Assemblywoman XXXX, Chairperson of the NYS Assembly. I believe that the skills and experiences I have gained at this position make me an ideal candidate for the job of author’s assistant.
As legislative director, I have developed strong writing and editing skills. For example, one of my main duties is to prepare Assemblywoman XXXX’s personal legislation, which deals with issues related to her position as Senior Member of the NYS Assembly Standing Committee.
This duty requires meticulous writing and editing skills, and an ability to convey complex legal ideas clearly. I have prepared dozens of pieces of legislation and received praise for the clarity of my writing.
I have also gained extensive experience in legal and policy research – fields that you state the author’s assistant must be familiar with. My experience in the NYS Assembly has afforded me the opportunity to become familiar with the consolidated and unconsolidated laws of the State of New York. In particular, through my work with Assemblywoman XXXX, I have become heavily involved in the current welfare and Medicaid reform movement. I am always eager to learn more about state legislation, reading up on these topics on my own time to become more knowledgeable. I would love to bring this passion for policy and law to your company.
I am confident that my experience in the Legislature and my research and writing skills qualify me for consideration. If you would like, I can provide you with current samples of my work. I have also enclosed my resume. I look forward to meeting with you and discussing my qualifications in more detail.
Signature (hard copy letter)
First Name Last Name