There are 5 things you must include in a cover letter for a job application. A cover letter is a formal letter that accompanies your résumé when you apply for a position and in this post, I will show you 5 things to include. Remember, the purpose of this letter is to support your résumé, provide more specific details, and explain in writing why you are a strong candidate for the specific position to which you are applying.
It should not simply reiterate your résumé; it’s an opportunity for you to make a case for your candidacy in complete sentences and phrases, which gives the reader a better sense of your “voice.” As always, it’s helpful to start by first thinking about the audience and purpose of the cover letter.
What information does your reader need to glean from your letter? At what point in the hiring process will they be reading it? As you draft the letter, consider what you would want to say if you were sitting across the desk from your reader. It should be written in a formal, professional tone, but you still want it to flow like natural speech—this will make it easier for your reader to absorb the information quickly.
What to Include in the Cover Letter For A Job
One of the most important things to include in a cover letter for a job is the introductory paragraph. Open the letter with a concise, functional, and personable introduction to you as a job candidate. This is your chance to establish the essential basics of your qualifications and to set the themes and tone for the rest of the letter.
- Name the position you’re interested in (by exact name and number, if available), and where you heard about it
- Clearly state that you are applying for the position—remember that you are requesting (not demanding) that they consider you as a candidate for the position
- Identify your major, year or graduation date, and school (this should be a brief preview of your educational status/area—you will go into more detail in the Education paragraph)
- Create a theme (essentially a thesis statement) for the letter, based on the job requirements and your knowledge of the employer
Education & Academics Paragraph(s)
Since you will have already started your basic educational status (major/year/school) in the introductory paragraph, the next thing to include in your cover letter is Education & Academics. The purpose of this paragraph is to paint a more detailed picture of you as a student, making progress in your academic program and gaining valuable experiences along the way.
Your opportunity in this paragraph is to describe your academic progress in more specific detail, explaining the activities and knowledge you are developing that most matter for this position and employer. Carefully consider what the employer will value most about your educational experiences.
- Emphasize specific skills and knowledge that you are developing
- Describe significant coursework or projects—don’t be afraid to focus on a particularly compelling example or experience
- If you have a lot of project experience or several key experiences that you want to highlight, this information may be written in multiple paragraphs.
- This content should NOT be a laundry list of course titles. Instead, describe how your academics have shaped
your understanding of the field you are entering and significant skills you are developing, but always tie it back to what the employer is looking for—stay focused on the information your audience needs and what they will care about
The next thing to include in your cover letter for job application is Employment Status. It is important for employers to feel that they are hiring responsible, reliable people who know how to hold down a job. If you do have work experience in this field such as a previous internship, this is a perfect time to discuss that. If you have previous work experience, even if it’s not related to your field, this is your opportunity to describe the value of that experience—the value for you, but, more importantly, to your reader.
- Describe your previous work experience (show, don’t tell that you’re a good employee)
- Be specific about the company, the time frame, your responsibilities, actions and the outcomes/results
- Focus on relevant and transferable skills developed on the job
This is one of the most overlook portions in a cover letter and it is advised that you include it. Activities and involvement in things outside of your coursework and work experiences such as student organizations, clubs, and volunteer work are a great way to show that you are a well-rounded, motivated person with good time management skills.
Personal, human connections are an important part of the job application process, and describing some of these activities and interests can help your reader start to feel a more personal connection.
- Demonstrate personality, values, and transferable skills through sports, volunteer, travel or other professional experiences
- Describe your specific actions and involvement honestly, while still trying to connect to transferable skills and the keywords in the job posting
If the employer has a strong program for charitable giving and involvement in an area that you share an interest, that would be another opportunity to build a connection with them and show that you could embrace the company culture and values.
As you conclude the letter, tie everything together, acknowledge the next steps, and end on a positive note.
- Reference your resume (“You will find additional information on my résumé”)
- Request (don’t demand) an interview (“I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with to learn more about the position and discuss my application”)
- Provide contact information in the paragraph (phone number and email address)— don’t put this below your name
- Reiterate interest in the position, the employer—another opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge about the company