Is writing a cover letter your biggest job search challenge? Here's an easy five step process to follow: Step 1: Analyze the complete position description; Step 2: Conduct research about the employer; Step 3: Call if you have questions; Step 4: Organize your thoughts; and Step 5: Craft the letter.
Cover Letter Outline
Dear Dr. or Mr. or Ms. [Last Name]:
In the opening paragraph, your aim is to capture the reader’s attention and motivate them to learn more about you. Make sure that you state which position you are applying for and how you learned about the position. Try to make an instant connection between your abilities and the departmental needs as stated in the position description.
Use the second paragraph to summarize the most relevant knowledge, skills and abilities you offer. Target the most prevalent themes in the position announcement and job description. Look for repeated key words, and if they apply to your abilities, include those key words in this paragraph. Your aim with this paragraph is to convince the reader how well matched you are to key requirements of their position.
Use your third paragraph to describe specific examples of your ability to perform. Target 1-2 key duties that you would be required to perform in the position. State that you have directly-related experience performing said duties. Now (and this is the important part) in 1-2 lines, give a specific example of the work you performed or the scope of your responsibilities. Next, add 1-2 more sentences to explain theresults of your efforts. Your letter will be stronger if you can quantify the outcomes of your work.
Optional: Add a paragraph to address other disciplinary or technical competencies listed in the position description.
Optional: Add a transferable skills paragraph to discuss the "soft" skills and abilities you offer that are relevant to the position (e.g., leadership, teamwork, public speaking, project management, time management, etc.)
In the closing paragraph, restate your interest in the position and why you wish to work for the company or agency. Mention the willingness of your references to confirm your skills and professional characteristics. Thank them for their time and consideration of your application.
[Your signature block goes here]
Cover Letter Presentation
To view Dr. Walker's PowerPoint presentation on cover letters, click here. If you download the presentation, speaker notes will be visible by clicking the icon in the upper left of the screen.