When sending your cover letter and resume electronically, try to find out if the employer would When submitting copies by mail, it's preferable not to fold them .
A resume and cover letter are your tools to make an impact on a potential employer and secure an interview. There are literally hundreds of books on the market with good advice about how to write effective resumes and cover letters, each with a different opinion on style and content. The USC Career Center believes that writing a quality resume and cover letter for internship and full-time job opportunities begins with a targeted, one-page summary of your skills and experiences that convinces the employer you would be successful in that position. The goal is to make your materials so engaging that the reader cannot wait to meet you. Not sure what experience you have? Check out our list of activities to get you started!
|To view the Career Center’s Guide to Effective Resumes, Cover Letters and LinkedIn Profiles, log onto your connectSC account. You will find it under the Resources tab.|
The most acceptable and readily used format for college students is the chronological resume, in which your most recent experience is listed first. How you choose to construct your resume, in terms of style, is up to you. For example, placing dates on the left or right or whether your contact information should be centered or on the left-hand column is your choice. Remember consistency is the name of the game. Always maintain the same style throughout your resume.
|International students: when applying to positions within the U.S., one-page resumes are standard practice. In the U.S., a curriculum vitae (CV) refers to a summary of qualifications and education that is usually more than one page and is used when applying to academic/faculty or research-related positions. Employers prefer resume formats which are minimal and easy-to-read. Personal information like birthdate is omitted to protect candidates from age discrimination as prohibited by federal laws.|
Resume guidelines that differ from non-U.S. resumes/CVs:
|If your school (Marshall, Annenberg, Viterbi) has a career center, please check their website for potential industry-specific resumes.|
Your resume is your marketing brochure. Your cover letter is your introduction or ‘executive summary’ to your resume. The main point of a cover letter is to tie your experience directly to the job description. Look at the description and be sure the words relate directly to those in your cover letter and resume. If the employer is looking for teamwork, highlight a team experience in your resume and be sure to include a team-related accomplishment in your cover letter. Your cover letter should be:
If you are considering positions in academia (teaching and research), you are generally asked to provide a curriculum vitae (CV) in lieu of a resume.
A list of references should include three to five people who can speak to your education, work, and/or professional background related to the position you are applying to. You should tailor the list according to whom you believe knows your unique qualifications for the position the best. Please ask potential references if they are comfortable serving as a reference and give them information (including the job description) about the positions you are applying to before you submit their name and information on your reference list. Your list of references should have the same heading as your resume and cover letter.
A recommendation letter should describe your personal traits, education, work, and/or professional background in relation to the scholarship, graduate school, or position you are applying to. Recommendation letters are generally provided for scholarship and graduate school applications but some employers will still ask on occasion. Usually the letters are written by people on your reference list. You will want to send the person writing the letter any important information that should be included in the letter. This helps ensure the recommendation letter covers what the reader wants to know about you to help make a decision on your candidacy.
A list of references and recommendation letters should NOT be included with applications materials unless requested by the employer.
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As more companies rely on applicant tracking systems to sift through online applicants, jobseekers need an electronic resume that passes muster.
You shouldn’t try to fit your whole career and life into the space of a cover letter.
Your cover letter should be acarefully curated selection of stories from your career that gives the reader a clear idea of who you are and how you can add value to their company.
The Society for Human Resources surveyed organizations on resumes, cover letters, and interviews and found the top three things that must be included in a cover letter are:
Your cover letter needs to provide this information and leave the reader convinced that you are the right person for the job.
To accomplish this, you should be using the requirements of the job to dictate the content of your cover letter and following these best practices.
Show how you can solve specific problems
Saying you’re a ‘problem-solver’ is about as helpful as explaining your preference for chocolate croissants over regular croissants. Don’t tell them about your amazing problem-solving skills. Explain the details of a particular problem you were key in solving and how exactly you employed your skills to solve it. Better yet, if you know the company has a particular problem you could help solve, outline how you can help solve it.
Pick an appropriate voice and tone
You should write like yourself, but you should also pick the appropriate voice and tone for the company you’re applying to.
Researching the company will help dictate the tone you want to use, which may differ greatly, depending on where you apply. For example, the tone of your letter for a legal consulting firm will likely differ from a tech startup.
Tell your story
Telling stories from your career is a great way to demonstrate your skills and give hiring managers some insight into your personality and work style.
When looking for the right stories to tell, always look to the requirements for the position in the job description.
It is also helpful to research the company further online to get a sense for the company’s culture. Before drafting your cover letter, compare your skills with the requirements for the position.
It can be helpful to use Venn diagrams to brainstorm and find what competencies you want to highlight and what specific experiences you want to share. After you create this diagram and identify what falls into both circles, overlapping subjects will direct and inspire the content of your cover letter.
Let’s say you’re applying for a marketing director position. Among other aspects in the description, the job requires several years of marketing experience, a deep knowledge of lead generation, and strong communication skills. Describe how, in your previous role as a marketing manager, you ran several campaigns for your clients and exceeded their expectations of lead generation (with specific numbers, if possible), and how you also trained and mentored new associates on how to manage their own accounts, which improved client retention rates.
Your anecdote is accomplishing a lot at once—it’s demonstrating one of your top hard skills, lead nurturing, and showcasing how you can collaborate with trainees, communicate effectively, and educate new employees on processes and client relations. You’re proving that you can meet the communication standards and marketing knowledge they’re seeking.
Honesty is the only policy
Dishonesty on your cover letter isn’t in your best interest.
Implying or stating that you have a skill that you don’t actually have will come back to bite you upon being asked to use that skill in the interview or on the job.
Don’t sound like everyone else
“Hi, I’m ___. I’m a detail-oriented, multi-tasking, natural-born leader and I am perfect for your company.”
Hiring managers are going to read the same basic cover letter repeatedly, and you don’t want to be the last template email the hiring manager discounts before lunch. Adding a little word variation helps you stand out against other applicants.
Instead of describing yourself as creative, try imaginative. You’re inventive, not innovative. You’re not determined, you’re tenacious. These word variations at least show that you can think beyond what the average applicant is willing to do.
End with a call to action
End your letter with a reason for them to contact you. But don’t add remarks like, “I’ll call to schedule an interview.” This doesn’t make you a go-getter, it crosses a boundary.
Instead, let the call to action be polite and open ended, suggesting that you are excited to offer more information and that you’re looking forward to talking with them.
Proof your cover letter
Always proofread your cover letter for errors and have friends and family read through the cover letter.
How to Make Your Cover Letter Unique?
When thinking abouthow to make your cover letter unique, keep the following statements in mind:
These might sound like opposing statements, but they’re equally important for writing a successful cover letter.
Your cover letter needs to be highly related to the job you’re applying to, but the way that you prove your qualifications should show who you are as an individual.
Tell a compelling story
Everyone loves a good story, and recruiters and hiring managers are no exception. Telling compelling stories from your career will make your cover letter unique and memorable for whoever reads it.
Just be sure that the stories you choose demonstrate proficiency with the skills, tools and concepts that are required by the job you’re applying for.
What makes this company your go-to choice? Why is this company special to you? Perhaps you’re attracted to the workplace culture, or perhaps you’ve always admired the business philosophy that the company lives by.
Address the recruiter or hiring manager by name
Now it’s fine to just use “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” when addressing the recruiter. In fact, I can tell you from experience that most people use precisely these words. However, I can also tell you that most people don’t get the job. If you want to make a strong impression, then take the time to find out who you’re addressing.
You may have to make a few phone calls or try several searches before you find the right name, but, the harder they are to find, the less likely other applicants are to do it and the more impressed they will be with you.
Give your cover letter a unique visual format
A unique visual format for your cover letter can help you stand out from other candidates in a positive way. Just be sure that the unique format you use is appropriate for the company you’re applying to and their industry.
Here’s a good example of an eye-catching cover letter format:
Recruiters and hiring managers read thousands of cover letters and resumes, so make sure that you avoid thesecover letter errors:
Avoid overused phrases
The average cover letter is going to be extremely generic and contain overused expressions such as “Thank you for taking the time to look at my resume” or “I believe that my set of skills make me a great fit for the job.” While none of these lines hurt your chance of getting the job, they certainly don’t help either.
Career coach Angela Copeland says, “stay away from phrases that are known to annoy hiring managers, such as ‘heavy lifting’ or ‘think outside the box’ or ‘game-changer.’”
Here are some more phrases that make recruiters and hiring managers groan:
Recruiters and hiring managers go through hundreds of cover letters and get tired of these clichés. They’re waiting for something new and refreshing to come along and it’s in your best interest to do so.
Never include irrelevant information
Never include irrelevant information in your cover letter. Irrelevant information can confuse or bore the reader, causing them to miss important points in your cover letter.
The longer you “sit on” a cover letter to edit and re-write it, the longer you prolong the opportunity for someone else to get the attention of the hiring manager you want to impress.
You should submit your cover letter as soon as you are certain that:
Submitting your cover letter
Always follow the submission instructions laid out in the job description when submitting your cover letter.
If you are submitting the letter though a website with fillable fields, be sure that no formatting or content errors have occurred.
Writing a cover letter is a key part of the job application process.
A great cover letter will impress potential employers, set you apart from other applicants, and get you more interviews. A poorly written cover letter will hurt your chances of landing any work at all.
Don’t write a bad one. Learn how to write a cover letter for a job, so you can create a complete application that resonates with hiring managers everywhere. Follow these simple instructions, and you’ll be able to assemble the best cover letter possible.
Table of Contents
In short, a cover letter (sometimes called a covering letter) is a one-page document written to express why you’re the best candidate for a particular job. It is always paired with a resume, and should:
A strong cover letter is also an essential part of a job application. A well-written cover letter can get you interviews even if your resume is lacking. A bad one, however, can make you look unprofessional and hurt your job prospects.
If you’re applying to a company that isn’t advertising any job openings, send them a letter of interest instead of a cover letter to ask about potential employment opportunities.
Although a cover letter is brief, a good one packs a punch. If you write yours well, it can:
Check off these five boxes, and your covering letter will be a compelling, powerful companion to your resume.
Our business letter format guide covers letter writing of various types in great detail, in the event you need more than just a cover letter for your job hunt.
If you’re curious what to include in a cover letter, this handy chart breaks things down nicely:
Contact Information: Basic cover letter for a job info includes your details + those of the target company.
The “Intro” Paragraph: Your cover letter introduction should grab the reader’s attention (in a good way).
The “Body” Paragraphs: A good cover letter has body paragraphs that showcase your abilities & how you fit into the company’s future.
Call-to-Action: The best cover letter CTA lets the hiring manager know when you’re available to interview, and that you will follow up if necessary.
The Sign-off: A cover letter closing should consist of “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or “Best Regards,” + your name.
If you want to see what a cover letter for a resume should look like, browse through our cover letter examples. We have over 100+ from a wide range of industries.
Not sure what to write in a cover letter? This simply written cover letter guide will help you land more interviews.
First, you must know how to address a cover letter.
Start by including the employer’s contact information as well as your own. Be careful here – a small slip-up could send your application to the wrong place. Needless to say, this diminishes your chances of getting called in for an interview.
While this example demonstrates the information you need to include in the section, there are various ways to format it. Just make sure the information is complete and correct.
Next, find out towhom you’re writing.
Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. Would you rather be addressed as “To whom it may concern” or by your actual name?
Even worse, writing “Dear Sir or Madam” makes it sound like you’ve just popped out of a time machine from Victorian England.
Writing a good cover letter greeting sometimes takes a bit of research. So do it. Look through the company’s website, scour LinkedIn, and make a call to ask for the hiring manager’s name if it’s not readily apparent. Even if you end up addressing your cover letter to the wrong manager, it still looks like you’ve made an effort.
Looking for more cover letter tips? You’d be surprised at how much work can go into a one page document.
You want your cover letter introduction to stick out for the right reasons, and to reflect your application in the best possible light. It all starts with your first sentence.
There’s no need to get fancy here. The first sentence of even the best cover letter should simply include,
Your opening line is like a firm handshake — a formality, but an important one nonetheless. You’ll have time to elaborate on what you bring to the table later.
The rest of your first paragraph should concisely present your background. Information like your degree, area of study/expertise, career goals, and relevant experience can be touched upon, particularly in terms of how they align with the goals of the company.
Don’t be afraid to let a little personality shine in this paragraph, either. Just remember that serious companies might not share your sense of humor, and that a good cover letter should always keep things appropriate.
The second paragraph should directly respond to the job description posted by the company. Use this space to explain how your previous work experience, skills, and abilities will allow you to meet their various needs.
To make sure this section resonates with the hiring manager, you can (and should) literally include words and phrases from the job description.
The second paragraph is the “what you bring to the table” portion of your cover letter, so be sure to take your time and make it great.
You’re allowed to talk yourself up in your covering letter, so long as you have the evidence to back it up.
In your third paragraph, explain how you personally fit into the company’s future. Paint a clear picture of the ways you can help push the company forward and achieve any goals you suspect they have.
You’ve already proven that you’re a capable candidate in the second paragraph. Use the third one to illustrate ways you’ll take those capabilities and help the company grow and reach new heights.
Your cover letter closing paragraph should set things in motion, and push the hiring manager toward contacting you. This is best achieved by including a “call to action” (CTA).
In your CTA, inform the employer that you’d love to come in for an interview. Tell them that you’ll touch bases within a week if you don’t hear back. Thank them for taking the time to read your cover letter, and for the potential interview opportunity.
It’s important to not come off as too pushy, but you want to have conviction as well. A good cover letter sign-off will stick in the mind of the reader, so make sure yours has the tone you’re trying to convey.
If you’re worried about your background when writing your cover letter, understand that you aren’t the only one. Many job seekers have particular situations that may seemingly hurt their chances of landing work.
Thankfully, there are ways to downplay these situations with a good cover letter (although you might still need to address such issues during an interview). For example, if you want to transition to another industry, you’ll need a career change cover letter.
Here are several examples of scenarios that might cause a hiring manager to second guess your cover letter. If one applies to you, click on the corresponding link to learn more about ways you can handle it. Don’t let your particular situation become a roadblock in your efforts to secure a great job.
Tying the content (and look) of your resume into your cover letter is a great way to put a cherry on top of your application.
First, you can cover resume content in the body of your letter (a strategy that may have led to the misnomer ‘cover resume letter’).
To do this, elaborate on one of your more impressive work feats, or touch upon a relevant achievement that you had no space to explore on your resume. Just be sure to keep things consistent between your resume and cover letter, or it might get confusing for the hiring manager.
You can also make your resume match your cover letter in terms of aesthetics. Here’s an example of how it’s done:
Although the content of your application holds the most weight, it doesn’t hurt to catch the eye of whoever is vetting your resume cover letter combo. Visual elements can make your application more memorable, and end up being just the pushyou need to surpass an equally qualified candidate.
Other than the on-page content, your cover letter format plays the most important role in the success of your letter. Elements such as margins, font size and style, and alignment all factor into the hiring manager’s overall impression of you.
Here are a few quick tips when styling your own:
Many people aren’t sure how long a cover letter should be, and get caught up in minor details like word count and paragraph length. While these points are important, remember to prioritize the content and tone.
With that said, the purpose of your cover letter is to market yourself to a busy hiring manager. Too much text will most likely hurt your chances, and too little text will make you appear as if you don’t care much for the position.
So an effective cover letter length to go with (if you’re using a word counter) is 200-300 words. It should also be threeto four paragraphs, and NOT exceed one page. This gives you time to introduce yourself, hit upon your main selling points, and inform a hiring manager of your interest in the position.
Writing the best cover letter will be a much easier task if you look at some examples and templates first. Check out your industry-specific cover letter sample on our hub page, download it for free, and read up on writing tips to make your own cover letter stronger.
Then, download one (or several) of our free professional cover letter templates. They come in a variety of styles and colors, so be sure to find one that you feel most suits you as a job seeker.
In the gallery below are a few examples of our popular templates being used by actual applicants.
You’ve made it this far, which shows you’re dedicated to creating the most professional cover letter possible. More interviews and better jobs await you.
Resumes, cover letters, interviews — they’re all a small part of the bigger picture. The big part is getting paid. So get paid.
Did we miss anything? Leave a comment (or several) below, and our team of career experts will get back to you soon. In the meantime, you should check out our new and improved cover letter builder and see how it compares to other examples out there. We’re pretty sure you’ll be impressed!
Geoff Scott is a hiring manager at Resume Genius, where he enjoys sharing the freshest job hunting tips of the day with RG’s international audience. Equipped with a Master of Arts degree from the University of Nevada, he... more
When you're sending an email cover letter, it's important to follow the employer's instructions on how to submit your cover letter and resume. You need to make.
More and more companies are requesting electronic resumes from jobseekers. An electronic resume is a document that has been stripped of all format and design elements that could interfere with its readability by an applicant tracking system (ATS).
Best produced in plain text (ASCII), HTML, or PDF, an electronic resume provides recruiters with a document that can be easily scanned and understood by its ATS.
The online job application process has forever changed personnel recruiting, and jobseekers must learn how to use the electronic resume to further their careers. Social media career profiles, such as those on LinkedIn, rely completely on electronic submissions. Even if you hand deliver a printed resume to a prospective employer, it will most likely be scanned into a computer and then processed by an ATS.
The online job application process has forever changed personnel recruiting, and jobseekers must learn how to use the electronic resume to further their careers.
An ATS is a software program that handles the first phase of a company’s recruitment duties by scanning, analyzing, and classifying resumes. This software typically looks for keywords that related to the job opening. A recruiter or hiring manager chooses these keywords into play and ranks them according to importance. The program then sets about finding applicants who have the most keyword matches in terms of skills, experience, and education.
Human recruiters traditionally start their resume surfing by weeding out the undesirables — those with poor spelling and no related education or experience. Then they sift through the remaining applicants. An ATS program starts by choosing the highest-ranked prospects (per keyword matches). All other candidates drop to the bottom of the list.
According to Business Insider, a large company may receive 250 applications for a single opening. Many of these are unqualified for the posted job. HR departments, therefore, use an ATS to reduce the workload associated with sifting through scores of unqualified applicants.
Unfortunately, due to keyword and other system constraints, some well-qualified candidates may be overlooked by an ATS if they don’t format their resume properly. Each ATS is slightly different, but most can’t interpret nuance, which means that even a slight variation from the input keywords could be misinterpreted by the system. Also, poorly places numbers, such as dates, may cause an entire line of work experience to be omitted.
Around 90 percent of large companies use an ATS, and top Fortune 500 companies are at almost 100 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. With so many companies embracing the ATS, it’s important that jobseekers do all they can to learn how to write a resume that is pleasing to an ATS.
You are looking for work, but you actually have an important job to do right now: revamp your resume so that it appeals both to an ATS and to a human recruiter. Once you have a great electronic resume to submit, who knows what exciting career lies ahead?
As more companies rely on applicant tracking systems to sift through online applicants, jobseekers need an electronic resume that passes muster.