Writing a solid cover letter

If you've never written a cover letter before, or need a quick refresher about what to include, then you've come to the right place. Here are some useful hints to help you craft a letter that just might land you that interview!

Do I really need a cover letter?

The short answer... yes.

The cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself, to explain how you're best suited to the job, and to really set yourself apart from the competition.

If you're applying for your first job, the cover letter is a way to make up for the lack of job experience included in your resume. This is your chance to show that you're intelligent, capable and dependable. And, it shows that you've done your research before applying for the job.

Nowadays, the internet and e-mail are major tools that employers use to hire new workers and people use to hunt for new jobs. In many cases, you can now directly apply for a job online. Many people forget to include what job they're applying for when they forward their resumes by e-mail. That's the best way to make sure your resume ends up in the trash.

Writing a solid cover letter is an essential job skill that you will probably use for the rest of your life.

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What to include

  • Who you are and what job you're applying for;
  • What skills, talents or background you have that apply specifically to the job or company that you want to work for; and
  • How to contact you for an interview.

If you know someone who already works for the company who could recommend you, you might want to include this information in your letter. This will suggest that you have a personal connection to the job and you are already familiar with the company. Just make sure you have that person's permission before you go dropping names!

If you're sending your cover letter as an e-mail, remember to also include your full name and the job title you're applying for in the subject line.


What not to include

  • Spelling or grammatical errors. These will lose you the job faster than if you never applied for it in the first place. Ask someone you trust to proofread your letter before you send it out. (This is also a good way to gain some perspective on your letter and to get a second opinion.)
  • Unusual or silly fonts. Use a 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font. These are standard, professional fonts that are easy to read and show that you're serious about getting hired.
  • Your social insurance number (SIN). This is personal information that you need to protect and, what's more, the employer doesn't want to see it.

More tips

How long should my cover letter be?

One page: 4-5 paragraphs with 2-3 sentences per paragraph. That's it. No more.

You don't need to include your life story in your cover letter. It should be clear, concise and to the point. Depending on the job, some employers will receive dozens, maybe even hundreds of applications. The longer the cover letter is, the more likely it'll be skimmed over... it might not be read at all!

The cover letter is an opportunity to show off your writing skills. Employers are looking for people that can cut-to-the-chase, and fast. Get to the point: tell them why you are a great choice for the job and then how to contact you. That's all they want to know.

Anything else I should keep in mind?

Don't re-hash your entire resume on your cover letter.

Your letter needs to be simple and concise. The trick is to be able to pick up some highlights of your resume and then to expand on them: explain how they relate to the job that you want.

Try not to use "To Whom it May Concern."

It suggests that you're using the same cover letter to apply to different jobs. This isn't the best idea...

Why? Because using the same cover letter over and over means that you can't relate your skills to the job up for grabs. It means you haven't done any research. If you can't specifically say why you're the best pick for the job, then why should the employer specifically hire you over somebody else?

If you're unsure about how to address the letter, a quick phone call can help you clarify who's in charge. It's also an easy way to get some inside information about the job!

Tell the truth.

You may be tempted to "embellish" your experience or your skills in your letter. Resist this temptation. If you don't get caught during the interview, then you will get caught when you try to work in a job that you're not qualified for. Remember: the job that you don't get will never be listed in your resume, but the job that you were fired from will always be there.

Your cover letter should sound formal and professional.

The best way to do this is by keeping it simple and avoiding complex sentences. At the same time, don't be afraid to be passionate about the job. An employer is looking for someone that will bring energy and enthusiasm to the position. A good way to reflect this is through your cover letter!

What if I need more help?

Here are some other websites that provide tips on writing your cover letter:

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