Writing a Cover Letter

09/08/23 | 7 MIN READ

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a one-page statement that is broken up into three or four paragraphs and attached to your application and accompanying the other documents. The cover letter should specifically capture what inclined you, the applicant, to pursue the job. To effectively approach the cover letter, you should provide information about skills and experiences that have prepared you for the job you are seeking. Since the point of the cover letter is to express your motivation for the position you are applying for it may also be referred to as a motivational letter or statement of purpose. The cover letter must capture the basis for your application because the purpose of the cover letter is to convey to the recruiter your interest in the job opportunity and the top qualifications that you make the ideal candidate for the job. The extra effort also differentiates you from the other applicants by showing your work ethic, attention to detail, and how you fit into the company's missions and values.

How to Write a Cover Letter

When writing a cover letter include all your skills and experiences that prepare you most for the relative position. It might help to look back at your work experience as previously outlined in your resume or CV. Use your experience and cross-examine how each one has prepared you for the position in question. It is also good to recall what you accomplished in the position and how these accomplishments are a reflection of your potential in other positions. In simplest terms, below is a list of questions you should ask yourself before writing your cover letter.

  • What qualifies me for this position?
  • What will I bring to the position?
  • Why do I want to work for this company?
  • Why do I want this position?

Use these questions and as you answer each one, keep your responses. Your responses will serve as a skeleton for your cover letter. The cover letter will then flow and capture these points which the hiring team will be looking for when they read your cover letter.

🔬Learn: How to Write a Resume

Meet the Job Requirements

In your cover letter, provide details about your past and current positions, if applicable. When describing your previous work, your goal is to describe how your past and current positions might impact your abilities to succeed in a new role or how it has prepared you for the new role. When writing this portion, pay attention to the job description. Using the job description pick out portions that you can use to compare to your knowledge. Then discuss how you have applied and will continue to apply your knowledge to achieve this part of the job. To stand out, you might also include percentages, numbers, or statistics of some sort that quantify your abilities. Often, these numbers are used to evaluate the likelihood of your success in the position based on past measurements.

For example, if you are applying for a marketing position you should describe your role with the company and the skills you used. You then can add what you achieved in this marketing position. Maybe you were able to increase sales in the last year, maybe you enhanced customer engagement, or maybe you secured advertisements for your company. The key part is in your cover letter always specify how much you increased or enhanced this segment of the company while working for them.

Exceeding the Qualifications

After describing how you meet the job requirements, it is important to include your value in the position and what you will bring to the company. To successfully highlight how you exceed the qualifications and should be considered, ask yourself what you will do in this position. After you identify what you can bring to this position establish which ones set you apart. You can also use your past experiences to determine which skills could be helpful for the job, that are not mentioned in the job description. These technical and soft skills can be what make you a standout applicant. Some companies may even make it easy and include a preferred but not required section in the job description. Either way, it helps to hone in on how these skills will contribute to their company's success. Remember that your cover letter is part of marketing yourself. In the same way, companies want to stand out by meeting their customer's unique need/needs, as an applicant you want to fill a company's expertise.

For example, let’s say you are applying for a data analyst position and the company only requires you to know Python. Then under the preferred qualifications it also asks for C++. The great part is you might be well-versed in Python, C++, Java, and HTML. The job may not require a multi-code language, but from experience, you know that using one language over another can make a project run easier. Therefore, it is a good idea to mention that you have these skills and can adapt to code languages easily and as needed. Needless to say, the hiring team will more than likely notice that they can hire a single individual who has the required skills, preferred skills, and more.


🔬Learn About: How to Sell Yourself in an Interview

Motivation to Work for the Company in the Position

Lastly, you should always provide your motivation to work for the specific company that you are supplying your cover letter to. The reason for including your motivation is that the employers and hiring team want to know why you want to work with them. Those in the company want to ensure they are hiring someone who has expressed a sincere interest in the job's duties. They also want to ensure that who they are hiring has the enthusiasm to be part of the company team and shares their company vision. Many companies have similar job positions and being able to explain why you applied for the position with the specific company is salient. This part of the cover letter should explain how working for their company is significant and will help you to fulfill your career goals. The critical part is to speak with sincerity. You can effectively add this to your letter by discussing a company's reputation or credibility. To captivate the hiring team, perform research about the employer and weave the findings that stood out to you into the cover letter. This attention to detail shows that you are genuinely interested in the company’s success and contributing to its continual achievements.

For this instance, it is highly suggested that you research the company and also their competitors. You can leverage what you learned about what makes the company stand out and highlight these features in your cover letter. One way to address company highlights is by using their mission statement and evaluating how it sets them apart. An example of finding distinctive aspects is seen among engineering companies. When speaking with one student he shares his passion for working as a bioengineer in Research and Development (R&D) positions. This particular position exists in every biomedical or biotechnology company such as Medtronic, Glaukos, and Johnson and Johnson. His goal, however, was to work for Edward’s Life Sciences. Edward’s focuses on innovations for structural heart disease, which is his passion as he suffered from heart failure as a child. The company's vision that focuses on and provides for individuals who are fighting cardiovascular disease aligns with his passion, professional, and emotional goals as an engineer. These are all points he made in his cover letter and his interviews, hence contributing to his role today.

man giving presentation

Types of Cover Letters

It is also important to bear in mind that the type of cover letter you write matters. The type of letter coexists with the elements of the cover letter. That being said, the type of cover letter you choose to attach to the application can impact the perspective you portray to the hiring team. There are four general categories of cover letters that you can choose to write.

  1. Application Cover Letter
  2. Referral Cover Letter
  3. Letter of Interest
  4. Value Proposition Letter

Below is a description of each type of cover letter and when they are most useful. Please ensure you use the appropriate cover letter depending on the job you are applying for and what cover letter you were asked to include.

Application Cover Letter

An application cover letter is the most common type of cover letter that candidates use when applying for a job. The traditional style of an application cover letter includes details about your professional experience as they pertain to the requirements of the job post. The goal is to show what experiences you have and how you will use them in the next job. This cover letter also allows you to explain details that may not immediately be present in your resume. These details might describe instances such as an employment gap, a change in your career, and most emphasized the reason you chose to pursue and work for a specific company.

Referral Cover Letter

A referral cover letter can be very useful for applying for a job if you have someone’s name who is currently an employee of the company. Mentioning their name and stating they are someone who referred you to the open position is a point of contact that can be your way into the company. The reason goes back to your network. Having this connection with a referral can help the hiring managers distinguish you during the hiring process. Moreover, it makes you stand out because hiring managers sometimes feel more comfortable if hire someone they know as opposed to someone they have no connection with. If you do write a referral cover letter, do not forget to send a copy of your referral cover letter and resume to the person who referred you. This step helps keep the current employee updated on your application process.

Letter of Interest

A letter of interest is a cover letter that is meant as an inquiry. In this type of cover letter, you are taking the initiative to learn more about job openings/positions at the company where you wish to work. When writing this cover letter, bear in mind that a company may not have public postings, but rather are interested in searching for qualified candidates for future positions they know they will need. This type of cover letter can be very helpful because it decreases the number of individuals applying to a single application cycle, thus increasing your chances of being known. Additionally, This type of cover letter can be an advantage in your job search because it is letting the hiring manager know you have an interest in working with them while bringing to their attention who you are, your work ethic, and most admirable, you are not afraid of a no because you are trying every possible outlet.

If you decide to send a letter of interest, and a few weeks after sending the letter you do not hear anything back, try contacting the recruiter or hiring manager. You can make contacts via LinkedIn, phone call, or email and follow up on the inquiry you sent. When you do contact the company to follow-up make sure you keep the interaction short and professional while still showing your enthusiasm for working for the company. This idea of “short, simple, and sweet” will help them remember you when the time is right.

cover letter discussion

Value Proposition Letter

A value proposition letter is similar to a value proposition statement. It is a summary that explains what makes you unique. Your unique value can be found in your skillset, accomplishments, and the value you will bring to the company. The goal of this cover letter is to set yourself apart by leveraging what skills you have that might be hard to find in other applicants. When writing this type of short cover letter, you will usually add it as a resume summary statement. Your value proposition can also be used to help you answer the question "Tell me about yourself."

Final Tips

The final tip is to make sure your cover letter is well-connected and powerful. A hiring manager has read many cover letters and they know when it's sincere and meaningful versus writing a cover letter just to write one. Make sure you understand the power of your writing and the tone of your writing during the process. Best of luck writing away.


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