By Sheena Williams

Being in the business that we are in, one of the things that we get asked about a lot is “Do I really need a cover letter?”

Point blank, a cover letter is something that is personal to each individual writer. We can’t make a cover letter for you. We can give you suggestions on what should be in it, but a cover letter is used to let your personality shine through. So, in an effort to help everyone get their cover letter together, we’ve compiled a short list of things that each cover letter should have.

Less Is More. A cover letter should not be more than one page. It’s an introduction, not a life story or sonnet. Most are not more than 3 or 4 paragraphs in length.

Your first paragraph should be about letting the reader know who you are. As a matter of fact, your first sentence should capture the attention of the employer. Make it known that you know about their company and that you know about the position they have posted. You should always create enough interest in your opening which will compel the employer to continue reading.

 I am writing to apply for the position of Engineer with your company. I have read that your company is held to the highest standards to more effectively contribute to a better world. This is exactly the type of company that interests me.

The 2nd  and 3rd paragraph is most likely discussing your background and why you are interested in this particular company.

I attended the University of Texas and earned my Master’s Degree in Architectural Engineering and for the past 10 years, I have worked with ABC Company expanding my knowledge and experience by participating in various training programs. My accomplishments have received recognition in the form of awards and certificates. Your company has all the qualities and specifications that I am seeking in an employer. I believe I am the right fit for your position and I will be able to handle the responsibilities that come with bringing about great results for the company.

In the 4th and final paragraph, wrap it up and request for the opportunity to interview with them. Mention your resume that you have enclosed for their review. You are not trying to impress them with your writing; you are trying to explain why you are an awesome candidate for the job that they have posted. Make sure that you indicate you are at their disposal. Thank the employer for taking the time to read your letter and review your resume.

Please accept my enclosed resume and it is with great anticipation that I welcome the opportunity to personally discuss my qualifications and experience with you, at your convenience. Please contact me at (555) 555-5555. I will call your office to find out if an interview can be arranged. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my letter and review my resume. I look forward to hearing from you.

Keep The Reader Reading. If your cover letter doesn’t spark the interest of the reader right away, then it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. You may be an excellent writer, however, sometimes being too wordy can be a hinderance. Try to find that balance of being well spoken on paper, and not too verbose. Employers don’t have a lot of time to read letters and review resumes, so you need to start out strong and get the point across within the first few sentences.

Personalizing Your Cover Letter. A cover letter isn’t always one size fits all. Sometimes you will need to cater the cover letter to fit the job you are applying for. Research where you are going to work, and make sure that you mention anyone you know there who might prove helpful and get you noticed. For instance, you spoke with “so and so” and they recommended that you send in the application.

Explain Why You Want To Work For Them. “I want to make a boat load of money” is not a good reason to give in wanting to work for a company. “I want to utilize my talents in a field where I can grow and learn” is a very good statement.  “I want to work here because your medical benefits rock” is also NOT a good reason. “I would love to work for your company because I feel that I would be a good fit and I would work well with your staff” is another good statement.

Selling Yourself Is A Must. If you aren’t going to sell yourself, why bother with the letter? Brag about yourself a little. This is the time that you can brag, so do it. If you know that you are the only one in a hundred miles who can do the type of coding, building, paperwork, etc., make sure you mention that. You want to ensure that they know what they are getting and that you are a prize! Show them why you are worth hiring.

Getting The Interview Is The End Goal Of The Cover Letter. Your resume should give them the meat and potatoes of what you can do. The letter is just to get them to read your resume. The last paragraph should be how the employer can contact you if they are interested. When you mention that you will follow up, try not to make it sound like a threat. There is a fine line between following up and stalking.

Hope this helps with the cover letter process. Most importantly, just remember to relax when you are writing it.  You are already awesome. You’re just letting others in on the info! △