Crafting a Cover Letter
A potential employer’s first impression of you is your cover letter. The reality is that your résumé may never be read if it is not accompanied by a professional cover letter. If the administrator does not feel you are a good fit after reading your cover letter, your résumé likely will not get a first look. Without a stellar cover letter, you might never receive a call or email.
Your résumé cover letter is a sales letter. It sells your résumé; therefore, it sells you. It sets you apart from the many others applying for this same position. Common mistakes include neglecting to submit a cover letter with a résumé or writing a poor cover letter.
Since your résumé gives your work history and qualifications in some detail, your cover letter needs to succinctly describe you and the specific expertise you bring to the position.
- Briefly mention only the qualifications that are most impressive and pertain exactly to the job opening.
- Include indented bullets or numbered lists of three to five items of similar length, which are easy to read and show your qualifications at a glance.
- Use the same font and type size that you used on your résumé; they go together.
Basic things to know about and include in your cover letter:
- Write your cover letter on white bond paper.
- A résumé cover letter should be only one page in length.
- Your cover letter heading should be identical to your résumé heading. Headings should include your name and contact information.
- Use a business format for dating and addressing your cover letter to the appropriate person. List his/her correct position: “Mr. Ronald Jones, Director of Personnel.”
- Your cover letter salutation should be “Dear Mr. Jones” or “Dear Mrs. Smith.” If you do not know the marital status of a female interviewer, the safe salutation is “Dear Ms. Smith.” Use a colon after the name and not a comma.
- If a job post lists the title without a name, do a little research on the district website to find a name. If a name is not available, use the title in the greeting line.
- A résumé cover letter is a business letter. Use formal block (not indented) paragraphs with a blank line between paragraphs.
- Write optimistically and to the point.
- Be sure to respond to each item included in the job posting.
- Double-check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Have someone who is good at English proofread your letter.
- Be sure to include complete and current contact information.
- If your contact information is different now than it will be after graduation, give your “permanent” address, email, and phone numbers as well.
Your cover letter should consist of exactly three paragraphs:
Several positions may be open so, in your cover letter, briefly state your position of interest and how you learned of it.
If you can, drop a name (but only with permission). Do some research and say something positive about the school.
Let the person reading the letter know immediately why you are the best candidate for this position. You need that person to read past the first paragraph—and to look at your résumé.
Example: I have always admired teachers like those who teach in XYZ School because they successfully teach diverse classrooms. Since I got a TESOL certificate along with my elementary education certificate so that I could teach in a school such as XYZ, I was delighted when my friend Mrs. Smith told me that XYZ had an opening for a third grade teacher—the very grade I had student taught.
Briefly expand on your qualifications, education, experience and interests, especially those matching the employer's needs. Additionally, cover letters should call out key parts of your résumé that you want the employer to notice. Say that you are a strong candidate because of your qualifications, education, experience, interests, etc.
Research the school and learn all you can, the mission statement, the students, the demographic, and the people who work there. Relate your abilities, skills, and background to the ways you can help them or their students. Praise the school or system for recent public recognition or accomplishments.
Example: I am the ideal candidate for this position because I have:
- Two years’ experience as a camp counselor and Spanish instructor for elementary students,
- A bachelor's degree in both elementary and Spanish education along with a TESOL certificate, and
- Two years’ experience teaching English as a Second Language to first through third graders.
You can accomplish the same purpose in your cover letter with a well-worded sentence and not be restricted to making each item in your list a similar length.
Example: I am the ideal candidate for this position because I not only have two years of experience as a camp counselor and Spanish instructor for elementary students, but I also have two years of experience teaching English as a second language to first through third graders while I was working on a bachelor’s degree in both elementary education and Spanish along with a TESOL certificate.
Close your résumé cover letter with a bold statement that you are a strong match for the job position. State that you are looking forward to meeting with him/her. Make sure you mention that you have completed the required application and submitted it appropriately and that anything else that was requested is either complete or in progress.
Ask for an interview politely. Say that if you don't hear from him/her in 7–10 days, you will follow up. This is a great way to ensure the résumé was received and to open a dialogue. However, if you really don’t intend to follow up, don’t say you will.
[four returns—tap the Enter key four times—this is where you will sign your name in black ink after printing the letter]
[your name typed]
If you are submitting online, simply type your name, phone number, and current email. Remember, no cute emails—a professional email like first.lastname@ either gmail or yahoo—and check that email at least once a day after you send the first item referencing it.
End with your phone number and email address so that the reader can choose the most convenient method. Mail your cover letter, using both a typed and handwritten signature. Enclose your résumé. Do NOT staple them together.
Be certain your spelling and grammar construction are letter perfect! Don't ignore error signals from your word processing program such as green or red underlining. Right click and find out what the problem. If you send your résumé by email attachment, send it Adobe Acrobat file to avoid conversion problems on the receiving end.
Although you are selling yourself, try to use “I” and “my” sparingly--no more than six times in the whole letter. (That is why bullets may be helpful.) Focus on how you can help them attain their goals.
Never copy and paste information from your résumé directly on your cover letter. If you use the same information, re-phrase it and focus it to answer the job description or what you have learned in your research.
Call in three days (or however many days you said) and ask if your letter and résumé were received. If so, ask when you could schedule an interview. If the person you talk to does not want to schedule an interview yet, ask when you can call back!
Whether you are applying in person or virtually, you need to demonstrate that you have sterling qualifications and that your communication skills are excellent.
You will usually be able to upload at least one document. If there is no place to upload both the cover letter (letter of introduction) and résumé, make them a single document that will upload together.
Most employers get bombarded with a ton of email cover letters with attached résumés. To stand out, mail your prospective boss a cover letter and résumé by snail mail. It won’t hurt to have done both methods.