You have completed your resume and are looking forward to finally being able to apply for some jobs. Some of the ads you have seen for jobs have mentioned to submit a resume and cover letter. Being new at this, you are not clear on what a cover letter is, much less how to go about writing one.
A cover letter will accompany your resume and offers you a chance to sell yourself to a potential employer. As you are seeking your first job, you will likely not have a lot of work experience to include on your resume. The cover letter will give you the opportunity to present to the employer all that you offer and why you should be interviewed for the job.
When an employer receives a number of resumes for a particular job, a well-written cover letter will help your application stand out. Click here to learn more about why a cover letter is important.
This blog post will cover the following:
- Gathering information for your cover letter
- Consider how to sell yourself in the cover letter
- Putting the cover letter together
Gathering Information for your Cover Letter
The first thing you will want to do when working on your cover letter is learn as much as possible about the position you are applying for, as well as the employer that is hiring. Sometimes this will be easy; there are many employers that post long job descriptions in the ads, providing you the details of the job before you apply for it and you may be familiar with the particular business.
Of course this is not always the case. You may find that you have to investigate what the employer is looking for. Online or newspaper ads, as well as signs in a store window, do not always provide much information on what is being sought. And the company looking to hire someone may not be one that you are familiar with.
Do your best to learn the following things before putting together your cover letter:
- What are the responsibilities of the job?
- What is the employer looking for (as far as skills and experience)?
- What is important to the company where you are applying?
Having a good idea of what the employer is looking for will allow you to write a cover letter that will reflect not only all that you can offer the employer, but how what you offer can meet their needs. Employers usually appreciate that you made the effort to learn about their business and the position they are hiring for. This will help your application stand apart from others.
Consider how to Sell Yourself in the Cover Letter
As you were looking into the job you are applying for, you learned that the employer is looking for a self-starter with experience cutting lawns, pulling weeds and planting vegetables. Spend a few minutes thinking about any experience you have in those areas and how you may show that you are a self-starter.
As you are thinking about this, you remember how every year for as long as you can remember you have helped your grandparents with their garden. And when you were twelve you went around your neighborhood and offered to mow lawns and pull weeds for your neighbors. These experiences are perfect to talk about when preparing your cover letter.
You might find it helpful to take notes about the experiences you have that you can refer to as you put your cover letter together. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What formal or informal experience or skills can I point out that show I would be successful at this job?
- What can I talk about in my cover letter that will help me stand out from other applicants?
The cover letter will be the first impression the employer has of you and you can utilize it to show why you should be interviewed for the position you are applying for. A well-written cover letter can make a difference in your application, pointing out things about you that may not be reflected in your resume. Click here and here for more on selling yourself in your cover letter.
Putting the Cover Letter Together
Now that you know about the employer and the position they are hiring for, and have thought about what it is that you can offer as an employee to fulfill their need, it is time to put your cover letter together. Remember that the cover letter is the first thing that the employer will see when they review your application. Your cover letter will make an impression and it is worth putting in the time to ensure the impression is a good one. The following things are important when creating your cover letter:
- Use proper format. For more information on format, click here.
- You will want to create a cover letter for each job that you apply for. Employers are often turned off by generic cover letters that don’t focus on the particular job you are applying for. In the cover letter you will want to state the particular job opportunity, how you heard about it, why you are qualified and what you can offer that makes you a fit for the position.
- Make sure to edit your cover letter. Errors on your cover letter will be noticed by the employer and they will get the impression that you are not very detail oriented or applying for their job was not a priority to you.
- Be concise; your cover letter should not be more than one page and should clearly state what you have to offer and why you are a good candidate for the job.
Proper format includes a header, with the contact information of both the employer and yourself. If you have a specific contact person for the job, make sure to address the cover letter to that person. Should you be unsure as to who the contact is for the job, you can start your cover letter with “Dear Hiring Manager”.
You will then introduce yourself, stating the job you are applying for and how you learned about it. If you heard about the job from someone, make sure to mention that here. A personal referral is one way that you can get your resume looked at by a hiring manager. Let’s say your friend Joe referred you for the job and Joe has been working for the employer for the past year. The employer is happy with Joe and may be open to Joe’s referrals due to his performance. You will then want to explain how your skills and/or experience are a fit for the open position.
Use the next paragraph or two to sell yourself. Pull out those notes you took earlier about your skills and experience. Think about how they relate to the job. This is the place where you will let the employer know in more detail why you are the right person for the job and would make a great employee.
Use this part of the cover letter to provide information that is not on your resume. Let’s say you did a lot of research on what type of soil is best for growing tomatoes. This would be a great thing to mention in your cover letter as it is applicable to the job and shows you are willing to take the time to find answers. While your gardening experience may be on your resume, you may not have mentioned the extra research that you did. When relevant to the job you are applying for you will want to include it.
In your final paragraph, briefly restate what you wrote and why you should be considered for the job. You will then sign the cover letter. For additional information regarding what to include in your cover letter, click here.
Make sure to edit your cover letter. It may be helpful to have a friend or family member review it as well.
Remember that jobs that don’t ask for a lot of experience will usually have many applicants. A good cover letter will help you to get noticed among the applicants as well as give you the chance to point out all that you have to offer the employer.
Click here for more information on jobs for teens.
So, what do you think about how to write a cover letter for a first job? Do you agree with what was said above? Comment below to let us know!