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Tips for Writing a Winning Cover Letter

scrabble pieces spelling out 'Cover Letter'

Tips for Writing a Winning Cover Letter

They say you should never judge a book by its cover but reality tells a different story: first impressions matter. When you are on the job hunt, a cover letter is your first foot forward, so be sure to not trip yourself up. A cover letter may be your very first introduction to prospective employers and recruiters; if it comes off as generic or insincere, it could very well be the last thing they’ll see from you. 

While many job postings may not specifically ask for a cover letter, a well-written cover letter is an important part of an applicant’s submission for employment. The cover letter offers an opportunity to demonstrate passion for the company or the open position. It provides a chance to express some professional personality and display your interpersonal bona fides in a way that cannot be expressed in a resume.

When writing a cover letter, keep in mind your 5 W’s:

  • Who: Tell them who you are

  • What: Tell them what you can do

  • Where: Show them you know about their organization

  • When: Express your availability

  • Why: Explain why YOU are the best person for the position

Cover letters are often more difficult to compose than resumes. Although templates for cover letters do exist, using them is not recommended. Remember: cover letters are a showcase of your personality. Writing something too formulaic or bound to a template can prevent your character from shining through.

While you should avoid using templates, there are some good rules of thumbs to go by when composing a cover letter:

  • Format it like a formal business letter.

  • Keep the tone professional.

  • If you have a relevant skill that isn’t covered by your resume, highlight it in the letter.

  • Brevity is your friend: keep it to three or four paragraphs.

  • Make each cover letter unique.

This last point is crucial. You want to craft each cover letter toward a specific audience. The cover letter provides a venue to showcase your familiarity with the organization. It is both an introduction and an occasion to make your case as to why you are a good fit for THIS specific position and company. It can be time-consuming to craft multiple cover letters if you’re applying for the same type of position at multiple companies, but it is time well spent. Keep in mind that hiring managers and recruiters have read thousands of cover letters: they can tell when something is a form letter.

Looking for more tips on how to craft compelling cover letters? Rio Salado College offers career success courses that can give you the information you’ll need to make your resume stand out from the rest of the pack. Our counseling team can also offer advice and direct you toward resources to help in your academic and professional journeys.

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