The Most Important Elements of a Cover Letter

When looking for a new job you should take all the advice you can get. If there was ever a time to listen to others about untapped resources and networks, now is the time. And one of those resources that you might not know about yet is Goodwill Job Connection.

That’s right! Goodwill isn’t just a place to donate used clothes. They have a Goodwill career center where you can receive free resume tips, interview preparation tidbits, and even hear about upcoming job fairs in your area. They will also help you craft your cover letter.

As you’ve likely already starting applying to jobs, you probably know that the cover letter is often optional. However, it’s also a blank canvas where you can highlight even further how you are the perfect candidate for the position. So, take advantage of every opportunity to spotlight your skills, including this one.

But, what exactly should go into a cover letter? Let’s go over that now.

Date

Just like when you were in school, start with adding the date on the top left corner. Write it out formally like, March 30, 2018. This will help both you and the company to which you are applying keep track of when your application arrived.

Contact at Company

Ideally, you will be addressing the letter to someone directly at the company to which you are applying. If someone was listed as the point of contact on the job posting, address your cover letter to this individual.

However, if no one was listed, it’s best to use all resources available to find out who this contact person is. This will show initiative and will be much better received than addressing it “to whom it may concern.”

One suggestion is to call the company and directly ask. There may be someone in human resources it can be addressed to if not in the department you want to work.

If this is unsuccessful, search on the company’s website and LinkedIn profile. If you do find a point of contact, take things one step further. In additional to applying online, look to see if you can find this person’s email. If so, send them a copy of your resume and cover letter as well.

Once you have the information, just like a formal letter, under the date list the person’s name, followed by the company address.

Introduction

Now it’s time to start the actual letter, hopefully addressed to a specific individual. Make sure to immediately introduce yourself and state which position you are applying for using the title identified in the job posting. Then get into why you are the best candidate.

Body of Letter

Most of the letter will be addressing why you are the best fit for the position you want, so get specific. Don’t just list your past accomplishments. Ensure that everything you mention is applicable to what your want in your future; not what you’ve done in the past.

Also, focus on the points listed in the job description. If the company is looking for someone with specific skills, licenses, or qualifications, explain how you meet those criteria.

Note also the specific language used in the letter. There is more than one way to phrase something and if your cover letter is going through an online portal that is scanning for specific terms or keywords, those are likely ones found in the company job description, so use that same wording within your letter.

Conclusion

First and most important, do not waste space by including phrases like “in conclusion” and “to reiterate.” Instead, think of your cover letter like a story that has a beginning (introduction), middle (body of letter), and end (conclusion).

With this style in mind, find a way to tie all the pieces together to detail exactly why they should hire you over anyone else.

This can also be an opportunity to highlight your personality. For example, if the company your applying to donates to a specific charity to which you have a particular connection, share this information. Similarly, if the person you addressed the letter to mentioned they value a certain skill in their LinkedIn profile that wasn’t mentioned in the job description, address this.

Signature

Don’t forget to share who the letter is from and how to get in contact with you. Yes, you should still list your name and a phone number where best to reach you (likely your cell phone), but there are a few other items you may also want to include.

If you are applying for a job, you must register for an email if you don’t yet have one. It doesn’t matter what kind of job you’re looking for. This is a must as a lot of business is now conducted online. Then, include this email in your signature.

Also, if you have an old email that is either @msn, yahoo, or aol, upgrade to one @gmail. It’s free and quick to set up. Those older ones may incorrectly show resistance to change or unfamiliarity with updated technology, none of which looks good on a resume.

In addition to your email, you may also want to add your Twitter handle or other social media information if related to the position you want.

If you have any questions with the above or want advice on a letter you’ve crafted don’t forget to reach out to the specialists at the Goodwill career center. They have seen the best and worst versions and know the appropriate cover letter dos and don’ts so use them as a free resource.

Change it Up

Once you’ve met with a Goodwill career center specialist and nailed down a cover letter you are confident to send to the employer, keep a copy for your records and another one as a template.

You’ll want to make sure to tailor your cover letter to each new job you apply to, so use your favorite version as a baseline and then make changes as needed. This will save you time moving forward, while reminding you to make it personalized for each new position.

 

 

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