Understanding the Role of a Cover Letter

While applying for jobs, most people are concerned about perfecting their resumes. However, there is an equally important document that needs attention and that is the cover letter. In addition to a resume, a cover letter introduces an applicant to the hiring committee. An effective letter highlights important career achievements and makes a case for why the candidate is the best fit for the position. A strong cover letter format can set an applicant apart from other candidates aiming for the same job. Since only a limited amount of information should be listed in a resume, this document provides an opportunity for job seekers to offer finer details about who they are, and what value their experience will bring to the employer.

Why Is a Cover Letter Important?

A cover letter, along with a good resume, strengthens your position and increases your odds of being selected for an interview. It allows you to tell a story about yourself that might not be immediately clear if someone were just reading your resume. It also serves as evidence of your ability to communicate professionally. A carefully written letter demonstrates your enthusiasm for the position and shows your will to secure an interview.

A cover letter allows you to draw attention to some of the noteworthy achievements you have made in your career. In doing so, you can articulate how these achievements can relate to the job profile. By tailoring your cover letter, you can match your experiences to the requirements of the job.

Where a weak letter may harm a candidate’s overall application, a strong cover letter format can often make up for less compelling areas of an applicant’s abilities. In some instances, a hiring manager will contact the candidate based on a strong letter alone.

What is the right format?

1.    In a header to your document, include your full name, address, telephone number, and email address. Offering multiple contact methods ensures a line of communication.

2.    Address your letter to a specific person and include his or her title. Ideally, it should be addressed either to the person to whom the position reports, or the person responsible for the hiring. In your salutation, include the proper prefix i.e. Mr., Mrs. Ms., Dr., etc. If you do not know to whom the letter should be addressed, you may write, ‘Dear Hiring Manager’.

3.    The opening paragraph should be strong and make the reader want to read the rest of the letter. It should provide a broad overview of your background and relevant skills, as well as offer some insight as to why you are interested in the position.

4.    Your letter should be job-specific and should match your qualifications and experience to the job profile. Make sure to read the job description and research the role properly. Only the facts that are most significant to the position should be detailed.

5.    Your cover letter should have a strong closing and reinforce the enthusiasm you expressed for the position in your introduction.

6.    Format and proofread the letter properly. There is nothing worse than a poorly written cover letter with careless errors. It leaves a bad impression on the hiring manager and may harm your prospects.

7.    Make sure you follow your employer’s instructions while sending or uploading your cover letter.

Check out this cover letter example and find additional information on how to write the letter.

You may find more examples and resources to help with your education job search here. Create an account with OLAS and find more K-12 job opportunities with various schools.