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cover letter guide

The Mysterious Cover Letter: A Guide


The Mysterious Cover Letter: A Guide


Cover Letter Job interview season is upon us and it seems as though nobody knows how to write a cover letter. A lot of people don't quite get the purpose of a cover letter in the first place. We are usually taught how to write them in business communications, English, or some other freshman-year course, but by the time we need to write one, we've forgotten how to do so. Here I present you with the mysterious cover letter: a guide.

But Tati, do I need to write a cover letter?

No. Yes. Usually companies don't require you to submit a cover letter with your application. But think about it this way, if it came down to two candidates with the same experience and education and one had a cover letter and one didn't, who do you think would get called for an interview? Exactly. Now quit slackin' and make sh*t happen.

A cover letter is a nice way to let a company know that you care. It's also a great place to say everything you couldn't in those short answer boxes on the application. You know the ones with a 150-word limit? The yes or no questions? Here's your space to let it all out, clearly and concisely of course. Some might say a cover letter is a written ass-kissing, but if that's what (eventually) pays the bills, I'm alright churning out a few of them at once. Put it this way: you're only doing it this one time and hopefully not for a long time. You'll be happy you took the time.

Should I write one cover letter for  every position I apply for and just change the company names and dates? 

I say no. You can have a template or an outline for how each cover letter should flow, but no two cover letters should be worded the same. A cover letter is your opportunity to show a company how your experience, skills, and values align with their values and the skills required of the position. If no two positions are the same, then why should your cover letters be?

TBH, I don't even know where to start. That's OK. This is how I typically outline a cover letter:

  1. The fancy stuff
  2. Purpose Paragraph (super short)
    1. What position you're writing in reference to and why you're a good candidate
  3. First paragraph
    1. Hard skills
    2. Experience
    3. Education
  4. Second paragraph
    1. Soft Skills
    2. Excitement (!)
    3. Personal values and goals and how they align with the company's
  5. Paragraph where you tell them you're excited and looking forward to hearing back soon
  6. More fancy stuff

Different people have varying opinions on how your cover letter should look, thus I put fancy stuff in for 1. and 6. I can definitely say it's important to open and close with the proper greeting and salutation. I have listed links for cover letter template examples.

Three Excellent Cover Letter Examples from The Guardian

Cover Letter Guide from Purdue OWL

Now let me be clear: the way you write your resume should reflect you. Yes it's formal and yes there's formatting but it's uniquely yours. Make sure you stand out and not get mixed in the pile. I'm not saying a well-written cover letter is a shoe-in for a job but I'm saying it doesn't hurt. If you make the decision to write one, make sure it's different for every position you apply for and don't half ass it!

Good luck! Let me know if you think your cover letter helped you snag the interview...and even the job!