5 Paragraphs for a Great Cover Letter
Your cover letter is not a chance to restate your resume. If they want to read your resume, they can. Rather, your letter is a chance for you to translate your resume for them — here, you can explain how your experiences are relevant to their organization, and why they make you desirable as an employee/intern.
First, follow these guidelines:
– Use letterhead.
– Place your name/address flush with right margin.
– Place the prospective employer’s name/address flush with left margin.
– Place the date, set off by carriage returns, flush with the left margin, under the employer’s address.
– Your salutation should address the name of the person or committee to which you are writing, if you know it. If you do not know it, “To Whom it May Concern,” or “Dear Madam or Sir,” or “Dear Sir or Madam,” is appropriate.
– Avoid phrases like “I believe” and “I think.” We know you believe it, or you wouldn’t be writing it. Be strong! Be convinced! Be confident! Just say that you are the right candidate! You are the right person for the job!
– Use Arial 10-point or Helvetica 11-point font, or something similar. Never use papyrus. Even Times looks like a default at this point. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself, and then compare.
– Single-space the type, double-spacing between paragraphs. Do not indent each paragraph – they should be flush with the left margin. You can also justify each one with the right margin if you wish.
– Now, get ready to write your letter:
1. Introductory Paragraph
Begin with a brief introduction of yourself and the purpose of the letter. Tell what the letter will explain — give two points you intend to make about why they should hire you. Your experience and skills? Your previous employment and professionalism? Your international travels and education? Whatever they are, each one will be the focus of a paragraph that follows.
2. Main Point 1
This paragraph makes the first point you brought up at the end of your intro paragraph. Your previous employment makes you a good hire, does it? How so? What was that place you worked with the funny name? What did you do there that makes us want to hire you now? Did you adapt quickly to changing situations? Did you adjust materials to make them culturally-sensitive? Did you acquire diplomatic skills? What does this have to do with us? Why do we care?
3. Main Point 2
This paragraph goes to prove your second main point. So you’ve been trained well, eh? In your coursework, have you used extensive software programming? Did you work with large datasets, or perhaps conduct extensive interviews? Did you learn about the details of Samoan villages, or become fluent in Quechua? Don’t just tell them what you learned — tell us why we should care. What does your education have to do with us?
4. Summation Paragraph
This paragraph sums up your two main points. Throw in a sentence or two about your personal awesomeness here — you are fun to be around, or maybe you meet deadlines well, or you get along well with diverse groups. And for internships, highlight that you will be helping them and they will be helping you — because internship coordinators want to know their programs are edifying.
Sum it up, yo. Thank them for their time, and let them know they can reach you again, and that you’re attaching your CV/resume. You might include your email and phone here, if there’s space.
Now Sign Off with a “Sincerely” or “Yours Truly” or whatever works for you (but don’t get too friendly — you haven’t met them yet!),
Leave 3-4 carriage returns to sign your name,
Then type your name, print that sucker off, and sign it! Then take a deep breath and be happy knowing you’ve put your best foot forward.