Tips for Writing a Great Cover Letter

Put your best professional foot forward from the start

Whether you are just starting your training program or finishing up, now is the time to start thinking about the materials you’ll need for a job application. If you work on them ahead of time, then you will be ready to go when you’re ready to start your job search. Drafting the cover letter is a great place to begin.

When hiring for positions, companies will most likely ask you to send your resume with a cover letter (hard copy or email). It is an opportunity for them to start to get to know you. It is also an opportunity for you to explain why you think you’re a good fit for the position to help you rise to the surface of the applicant pool.

If you’re nervous about writing one, don’t be! Following these easy steps will lead to a solid cover letter that you can then edit as needed to fit each job application. Remember to save it as a Word or Google document. That way you can copy and paste it into an email, upload it for an online application, or print a hard copy if you are sending your application via regular mail.

Be professional

While you do want your personality to come through in the tone of the letter, always keep your language polite and professional.

Nuts and Bolts

If you are emailing the letter, always include a subject line with your name and the title of the job you’re applying for. Follow any and all instructions included in the job description about how to apply for the job. For example, if it asks you to include a job number in the subject line of the email, make sure you do so.

If you are mailing a hard copy of a letter, be sure to follow a business letter format.

Whenever possible, make sure you address your letter to a specific person. Sometimes that is included in the job description. If not, do your research. Call the company and politely ask for the name of the Human Resources director, or look at the company website to see if it is listed there. If not, use something like, “Dear Hiring Manager.” Avoid using “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”

Be concise

You want to keep your cover letter brief and concise. Only include information that is relevant to the job. Do not include personal details such as the fact that you walk dogs as a part-time job or have two (or no) children.

In the first paragraph, include the title of the position and where you heard about the job. In the second paragraph, you can talk about your educational and professional experience and how it relates to the job. If you have specific skills or continuing education that make you particularly qualified for the position, mention those here. The next paragraph is where you can include a few details about your accomplishments or personality that would make you right for the job.

For example, you can talk about how you created an organizational system at your last job that streamlined how patients were processed from the moment of check in to end of appointment leading to happy patients who recommend the office to others. Or, you can talk about how you managed your school work. If you’ve won awards relevant to the job or volunteer in the community, this is the place to include that information.

The last paragraph is where you will thank the hiring manager for his/her time and say you look forward to hearing from them.

Once you do send the letter and resume, remember to follow up in a week. You may send an email or call and ask to speak to the hiring manager. Once again, be polite, brief, and thank the person for his/her time and consideration. You may ask to confirm that your application materials were received, and reiterate how interested you are in the position.

Proofread. Make corrections. Repeat.

After you’ve written the draft, read it out loud to yourself. This is a great way to catch spelling and grammatical errors. Make any corrections needed. Then, ask a family member or friend to review it. Or, if you’re still in school, stop by the career services office.  They can often lend a set of fresh eyes to catch any final errors or suggest editing changes to strengthen the letter. Once, you’ve made any necessary changes, it will be ready to send!

We wish you the best as you start out on your job search journey!

This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. Visit us online for more information or to schedule a campus tour!  

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