The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce your resume. It is the first thing the employer sees, so the cover letter has to make the employer want to go on and read your resume or c.v. The cover letter consists of three parts: the introduction, the body, and the closing. An example is included at the back of this book.
The cover letter should be in standard business letter format. It is preferable to have a name to put on the cover letter, so before you prepare the cover letter, contact the employer's office and ask who to address the letter to (assuming the name is not in the job posting).
In the introduction, you must tell the employer what it is you are sending, identify the position you are applying for, and state how you heard about it (i.e. was it advertised, were you referred, or are you applying on speculation that there may be a job available?). Also, indicate what it is about that company/organization that makes you want to work there. Try to make a positive reference to the organization that you are applying to - everyone likes a compliment.
Please find enclosed my resume in application for the position of Volunteer Coordinator, as advertised in the March 14, 1996 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press. I am aware that your organization provides a wide range of vital services to young mothers and expectant mothers including a prenatal residential program, the Postnatal House, and a relinquishers group. Since I believe firmly in the value of these services, I am excited by the prospect of joining you in serving them.
This is where you tie yourself to the specific position and tell the employer why you would make a good match. It is important that you sell yourself here so the employer will be interested in reading your resume. Talk about your education, related experience, skills and abilities, and the personal characteristics which make you well-suited to the job. When writing the body of the cover letter, use words mentioned in the job description or ad. This will reinforce that you have the skills and experience that the employer is seeking. Finally, when describing your related experience, remember that projects you worked on in school or duties that you carried out while involved with a club or team count as well.
I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology which has provided me with a rich knowledge base directly related to this position, and I have also completed a course in Volunteer Management through the Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg. This has acquainted me with the principles of volunteer recruitment, supervision, and evaluation. I have considerable experience in working with young women in a helping capacity, both through my position as a peer counsellor at the University of Manitoba, and as a camp counsellor for behaviourally troubled adolescents. I also have experience in individual counselling, facilitating discussion groups, and teaching young people about health issues - all of which relate directly to the services which I would be training volunteers to provide within your organization.
Through my education and experience, I have developed strong supervisory and leadership skills, excellent communication skills, and solid counselling skills. In addition, I thoroughly enjoy working with young people, and can easily establish rapport with them. I would bring dedication and commitment to the position.
Thank the employer for his or her consideration and indicate that you are interested in a meeting. It is acceptable to indicate how the employer can contact you, for example, "I may be reached by phone at 123-4567," however, it is preferable to identify an approximate date that you will contact him/her to review your resume. If you do indicate that you will phone, make sure you follow through. When you phone, ensure that your resume has been received and attempt to discuss the position/organization/your skills.
I look forward to the opportunity of meeting with you in person to discuss my suitability for this position. I will contact you the week of March 22, 1993 to ensure you received this resume and to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for your time and consideration.
* The cover letter should be addressed to a specific person. Phone the organization and find out who is responsible for doing the hiring, then address your cover letter to that person. If you address it to "Whom It May Concern," it may not concern anyone, and may not be read.
* Unless you are specifically requested to handwrite your cover letter, it should be typed. Use the same paper that you used for your resume.
* It is important that the letter be well-organized and look attractive. Make use of white space, but contain the letter to one page. It is a summary - the bulk of the information is provided in your resume.
* There is no such thing as a "general" cover letter. You should prepare a different letter for each position that you apply for as it has to focus on the requirements of each specific position.