Cover Letter Writing 101

Making a good first impression isn’t just about a complete, solid resume. You also need a cover letter. The cover letter is included with your resume and demonstrates your desire to work with a specific employer for a specific job. Don’t make one cover letter to send with all your resumes. Not sure what to include? Don’t think you’re good at writing? Well, this week I talked with Erica Fox from CCBC’s Career Services Center to learn her top tips for cover letter writing. Read on and you’ll be on your way to writing a cover letter that stands out.

1: Always include a cover letter.
The cover letter is also called a letter of interest. Even when a job posting or description doesn’t specifically ask for a cover letter, send one with your resume.

2: Spell-check and grammar-check your writing.
Keep in mind a cover letter is a sample of your writing style. Make sure it is error free and uses proper grammar and format. Often, the cover letter is read before the resume, so it is the first document a potential employer sees.

3: Don’t repeat information from your resume.
A common cover letter mistake is to turn your resume into paragraph form and write statements like “I worked as a Sales Associate for four years, and I was in charge of training new employees.” That type of information is redundant, as an employer can find that information on your resume. A cover letter should be tailored to the job description. Highlight key accomplishments and skills that pertain to the position.

4: Give props.
In the first paragraph, make sure to identify how you found out about the position, whether that was from a job search website, a specific person who told you about the position, or if you found the job on the company’s website.

5: Do your research.
Research the company before writing your cover letter. Know the company’s mission and values so you can describe why you want to work for them. If you are excited at the potential opportunity to work for the company, it is fine to say so.

6: Show by example.
Do not be arrogant, and say in your letter “I think you will find that I will be an asset to your company, and as you can see, my qualifications fit the job description perfectly.” The employer will decide if you will be an asset. Stick to concrete examples of why you think the company will benefit from hiring you.

7: There’s no “I” in cover letter.
Try to avoid excessive use of “I” and “me” and “my” in your language throughout the cover letter. So, instead of saying “I think the educational success I have achieved show that I can balance many tasks at one time.” Say “The educational success achieved at CCBC is partly due to my ability to balance multiple projects, and stay focused and organized.”

8: Give thanks.
In your last paragraph, thank the employer for their time and consideration, and state the best way to reach you. The resume has your email, phone number and address, but the cover letter is the opportunity to let the employer know your preferred method of contact.

Think you’re ready to start writing? Go for it! Then schedule an appointment with a member of our Career Services staff for an expert review and more tips.

BONUS TIP: Get a head start on the competition! Research the companies attending our Job and Career Fair now so you can bring customized cover letters along with your resume.

– Amy McKissic, CCBC Publications Coordinator

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