How to Write a Good Cover Letter - Penn-Mar

How to Write a Good Cover Letter

Posted on March 15, 2022

There are many different things that factor into getting a job. First, you build a resume and send it to a company as part of your application for a job. If the company thinks you could be a good fit for the position, they’ll schedule an interview with you—either in-person or virtually.

Depending on how the interview goes, the company may offer you the job, or request a second interview as they narrow down candidates. This is a long process that requires a lot of work to even have a chance at being hired. So what can you do to separate yourself from the other candidates? One option is writing a cover letter. In this article, we’ll explain how to write a good cover letter that will help you stand out from other candidates.

What Is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is an additional document that you can send with your resume as part of a job application. Cover letters provide you an opportunity to expand on the skills and experience listed in your resume—which is condensed in nature—and specifically explain how those skills and experience are useful for the position you are applying for. Essentially, a cover letter is a way to make a case for why a company should hire you, instead of simply hoping they are impressed with your resume.

Some job openings require you to send a cover letter along with your resume, but cover letters are still optional for most applications. However, sending a cover letter can increase your chance of being considered for the position and even being hired. In fact, a recent study revealed that 83% of hiring managers, recruiters, and human resources specialists said that cover letters played an important role in their hiring decisions.

How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

Cover letters should be 3-4 paragraphs long and should almost always fit onto one page. Cover letters are not essays that require multiple pages, but instead are a slight expansion on your resume that concisely details your strengths, skills, and experience in relation to the position. Each paragraph should only be a few sentences long. If you include too much information, a hiring professional might stop reading and skip your application altogether.

Next, we’ll share some cover letter tips, focusing on what to include in a cover letter so you can get to work on standing out.

What to Include in a Cover Letter

Just like a resume, cover letters have certain things that should and should not be included in them. They also have a set structure you should stick to. One of the things people have the most difficulty with is how to start a cover letter. Before you start writing about the specific position, you’ll want to add some general information to the document, including:

  • Date and Address
    • Your name
    • Your physical address
    • Your email address and phone number
    • The date

Then you should try to find out information about the specific hiring professional you are sending your application to. Personalizing the letter to the hiring manager and tailoring it to the company shows that you are proactive and interested in the role. Once you have all the correct details, you need to address your letter to the recipient, include their information, and greet them.

  • Recipient’s Information and Greeting
    • The recipient’s name (if you can find it)
    • The recipient’s job title, such as “Human Resources Director”
    • The company’s name and address
    • A personalized greeting
      • E.g. “Dear Hiring Professional/Manager” 
      • Use any specific information about the recipient if you can find it

Next, you’ll finally start writing about the important stuff—your skills and experience, and why they are useful regarding the position. These are the main 3-4 paragraphs of your cover letter.

  • Opening Paragraph – In the first paragraph, introduce yourself and explain why you are writing. Explain why you are interested in the position and the organization as a whole. The more specific you can be, the better. You’re trying to grab the employer’s attention. Tell them why you felt compelled to apply to this particular position. Here are some questions to answer to help you:
    • Why are you writing?
    • Who are you? 
    • What are you doing now? (Keep it relevant to the position)
    • Why are you specifically interested in this position, and in the organization as a whole?
  • Middle Paragraph(s) – The next paragraph (or two) should be used to share your story as it relates to your qualifications with the employer. This is the area to elaborate on your past experiences—like your education, previous jobs, and other relevant experiences—and how they helped you acquire the skills and knowledge needed for the specific position you are applying to. 

Try to use the language included in the job description to tailor your description to the company’s specific needs, and support your claims with evidence from your experiences. Here are some questions to help you:

  • What are the few experiences that directly connect your skills to the position? 
  • How did you develop the necessary attributes and skills needed for the position?
  • Why should the company hire you?
  • Have you been successful in achieving your goals? How?
  • How are you unique or more valuable than other candidates?
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What do you find appealing about the work required in this position?
  • Why are you committed to the employer’s mission?
  • Final Paragraph – Use the final paragraph to express your interest in discussing the position further, and even requesting an interview. Offer to answer any further questions or provide anything else the employer needs from you. Include the contact information you’d like the employer to use if they reach out to you. Be absolutely sure to thank the reader for their time and for consideration for the position. Here are some questions to think about when writing your final paragraph:
    • What final point would you like to make?
    • What do you want the reader to take away most from your cover letter?

While cover letters aren’t a required part of every job search, they are incredibly useful tools that can help you stand out from the crowd when seeking employment. Now it’s time to write your own cover letters for job applications and, hopefully, be hired in your dream role! We even hope it’s with us at Penn-Mar Human Services!

Penn-Mar Human Services’ mission is to support people to live courageously in pursuit of their best life. Our approach is innovative, person-centered, and successful. Through meaningful employment, community inclusion, and residential choice, the people Penn-Mar supports are empowered to live their best lives. 

If you’re interested in a human services career and want to make a difference in the lives of others, consider filling out an application to join our team! We offer a wide range of employee benefits and competitive compensation. You can also get involved by learning more about our services, making a donation, or signing up to volunteer with us today!

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