Think of your cover letter as the profile picture of your resume. What kind of image do you want to project? What will grab the attention of your viewer?
You probably want to showcase your best attributes: your beaming smile or a well-dressed appearance. This is the first introduction to your employer, so let’s make it count.
The cover letter format should start with the basics, such as your name and general contact information. Then, add the company and position you are applying for and the hiring managers information (if that is available.) This leads with a professional and personalized touch. This is also where you can insert any social media links, like your LinkedIn, Twitter, portfolio, or reference websites.
In today’s world, greetings can be very informal in many situations. Not on a cover letter. Think about the position you are applying for. Would a CEO candidate start with, “Hi, [insert name here]?” No, so let’s make this custom to your potential new employer.
Again, if you know the hiring managers information, use it. If the position is corporate then use their last name (i.e., “Dear Mr./Mrs. Smith.”) If the company culture is a little more laid back then you can start with, “Dear [insert first name only].” This adds to the personal formatting that is going to drive the reader’s attention. If you’re unsure or can’t find a name, that’s okay. Using, “Dear Hiring Manager,” or, “To Whom It May Concern,” is acceptable.
The body of the cover letter format is an open door to what can be expected in the interview. Just like your profile picture, this will shape the potential employer’s first impression. Let’s put the light in your eyes to paper.
Engage with your professional potential by telling a success story from your current or a previous job. Be sure to research company and job requirements and use those as focal points. (This is also a good way to know how to set the tone of your letter.) Highlight an obstacle that you overcame as it pertains to the job description. Do you want to talk about sales growth? Discuss where your department was when you started and how you help to grow it. Are you applying to a financial institution? Write about how your contributions limited risks and propelled the company forward. You’re in Human Resources? Describe a scenario that needed your expertise. Make this about you and your achievements.
Keep it short and sweet though, as you want your message to be effective, not overindulgent. A good length is about 3-4 paragraphs. Make each one a different talking point. You can start with mentioning how good of a fit you are in the role based on the position’s needs. Then, go on to your professional anecdote and wrap it up with some goals that you can see yourself achieving for the company in the future.
The Closing/ Postscript
The formality expressed at the start of your cover letter should also be reflected in the ending. If you are taking a more laid-back approach and dislike the tried-and-true, “Sincerely,” then look to other phrases such as, “Best Regards,” or even a simple, “Thank You.” A more formal sign-off can be similar to, “Thank you for your consideration,”’ or, “Respectfully.” This wraps up the entire tone of the letter, so keep it consistent.
A surprising piece of flair to add to the end can also be a postscript. This is completely optional. If there is an added teaser of information you’d like to share or that would make the employer want to know more, this is where you can share it. An example would be mentioning how you’d like the opportunity to talk in more detail about a project that beat a yearly quota in your current role.
Your cover letter format should be clean and hold a constant message. Wrap it all up with re-listing your important contact information under your signature/ closing (e-mail, LinkedIn, Twitter.)