Cover Letters

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a letter that should accompany your resume. While a resume is a highly targeted marketing document that is written in a more or less standardized way, a cover letter produces some distinct opportunities and advantages:

  1. It helps you to make a good first impression on a potential employer. [1] 
  2. It gives you the opportunity to express enthusiasm and positive energy.
  3. It demonstrates your written communication skills.
  4. It gives you a chance to show that you’ve done some research about the employer.
  5. If someone internal to the company has referred you, and has given their permission to do so, it gives you an opportunity to mention their name.
  6. It gives you another way to connect your skills and experience to the requirements of the position by explaining your experience. [2]
  7. It gives you a way to stand out in comparison to applicants who do not take the time to write a cover letter.

The Purpose of a Cover Letter

In addition to the advantages we’ve just discussed, there are 3 main purposes for a cover letter: [3]

  1. To identify the position to which you are applying.  
  2. To convince the employer why they should invite you to an interview.
  3. To request contact (or inform the employer how you will follow-up).

Just as with a resume, writing a cover letter is not an exact science. In this module, we provide you with solid guidelines, but there are a variety of ways to write a cover letter to meet employer expectations while still letting your unique voice come through. There are many freely available examples of cover letters to peruse and explore.

Cover Letter Content and Format

Using a Job Posting to Craft a Cover Letter

You’ve already learned that a job posting can yield valuable information – such as keywords – that you can use to craft a high-impact resume. That information is also very valuable to consider when composing a cover letter.

Let’s say you’ve found this posting and you plan to apply:

Position                       Copywriter

Employer                     AAA-Plus Media Inc.

170 Dry Creek Drive

Yourtown, ON  M1M 1M1

Start date                    As soon as possible

Source                         Job Bank

Education                    College/CEGEP or equivalent

Experience                  +1 year experience in copywriting and editing an asset

Skills                            Supervise team of staff; Co-ordinate projects

Work Setting               Advertising, marketing, and public relations agency

Work Conditions          Fast-paced environment; Attention to detail; Tight deadlines

Personal Suitability      Flexibility; Team player; Organized; Able to work independently

Specific Skills               Study and determine selling features of products and services.

Write text for advertisements, commercials, and social media.

How to apply               Email

Here’s what a cover letter might look like for that posting. Take a look at the anatomy of the letter and pay attention to the ways in which the example specifically utilizes language from the posting itself:

  1. Position: quickly identifies the name of the sought after position
  2. Employer: names the company or employer that posted the position
  3. Source: outlines where and in what capacity they found the job posting
  4. Education: establishes that they are soon to satisfy the requisite degree-level
  5. Experience: specifies that they have several years experience performing relevant work
  6. Skills: mentions that they have experience in co-ordinating projects
  7. Work Setting: notes that they have experience working in marketing and media content development
  8. Work Conditions and Personal Suitability: takes language directly from the job posting and personally contextualizes it with a description of their previous experience
  9. Specific Skills: illustrates that they have prior experience in studying products and then writing about them (which is what this job will specifically require them to do)

A classic manila folder--a page peeks out from inside itPortfolio Opportunity #14 – Cover Letter Reflection

Cover Letter Examples

Sometimes the best way to get a feel for writing your cover letter is to explore a range of examples. Indeed has compiled a wide range of cover letter samples that are organized by target jobs and industries. Additionally, the University of Virginia also provides discipline-specific cover letter examples.

When writing your cover letter, be sure to use an upbeat and enthusiastic tone and use words that evoke a feeling of self-confidence (words like “certain” and “positive” for example).

In understanding the need to specifically address the needs of the employer, and contextualize your own experience, you’ll be able to identify, emulate, and craft effective, targeted cover letters.

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