What is a cover letter? How to write a cover letter and what you should include to stand out.

by Guest Author, Olivia Munson

When applying for a job or internship, companies could ask you to send in several documents, such as a resume or work samples. In many cases, you may also have to include a cover letter for an application.

According to Indeed, resumes are essentially “condensed fact sheets” about an applicant, including someone’s education, previous work experiences, qualifications  and skills, among other personal information.

But what about a cover letter? What is it, and what should be in a cover letter?

If you are looking to send out some applications and need to amp up your professional prowess, read on to learn more about cover letters and how to write one.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a written document you send along with your resume to a company when you are applying for a job. This document contains additional information on your skills and experiences as they pertain to the job you applied for, according to Indeed.

There are four types of cover letters, says Indeed:

  • Application cover letter
  • Referral cover letter
  • Letter of interest
  • Value proposition letter

An application cover letter is often the standard when applying for jobs. This type expands on your previous professional experiences referenced on your resume and relates them to the requirements of the current job you are applying for.

A referral cover letter is a deviation of the aforementioned but includes the names of a current employee who referred you to apply to the job opening.

A letter of interest is a more general inquiry about any openings at a company where you are interested in working. In this type of cover letter, you are not applying for a specific position but are instead looking to learn more about a company’s current hiring prospects.

A value proposition letter focuses on what you can add to a company and what makes you unique. This style of cover letter can often answer “tell me about yourself” type questions or personal essay prompts in applications.

What should be in a cover letter?

The major component for a cover letter is personal information, says the University of Washington.

Be sure to include your name and contact information, such as cell phone number and email, so the recruiter or hiring manager can easily identify your application and get in touch if they wish.

As with any letter, add a greeting before you get into the main content, such as “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear (Insert name of contact).” You may also choose to include the company’s name and address above your introduction.

In the introduction paragraph, express your initial interest and name the advertised position you are applying for. You may also want to include how you learned of the opening, such as through LinkedIn or an employee referral.

In the body paragraphs, outline how your previous experiences inform your work ethic. You may also want to feature your personal skills and provide specific examples to demonstrate your qualifications.

In your closing, focus on why you fit the job opening and hone in on your capabilities. Make sure to thank the manager for their time and open the door to hear from the employer about the next steps.

How necessary is a cover letter?

Cover letters are important when applying for a job since they show an employer a deeper view of your initiative and highlight your qualifications beyond what is already on your resume, says Indeed. Through a cover letter, hiring managers can gauge how your skills and experience are relevant for the opening.

According to Indeed, cover letters are necessary when sending out a job application if: 

  • The employer specifies to send a cover letter
  • The application asks for a submission
  • You have been referred to a position and wish to identify the company referral

If an application explicitly states you should not include a cover letter, then do not.

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About the author: Olivia Munson is a trending, SEO reporter. She has experience covering wellness, entertainment and politics.

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