What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a one page document attached to your résumé, and together, they make up a complete job application. It is the first document the recruiter sees and therefore the first impression you’ll make. The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce you, the position you are seeking and what makes you uniquely qualified for the job. It is crucial that you take advantage of the opportunity to grab the attention of the reader in the cover letter to encourage them to proceed to your résumé for more in-depth information.
Additional benefits of a cover letter include:
- It affords you the opportunity to demonstrate your writing ability
- Shows the reader that you have tailored your application for the specific job
- Provide personal details your résumé does not contain such as you attitude and motivation
- Explain gaps in your employment history
- Highlights or expands the key skills and experience the employer is seeking in a potential employee
Formatting your cover letter
To ensure that your cover letter stands out to the potential employer, here are a few tips on formatting for a professional appearance:
- Easy to read and professional at first glance
Consider the following:
Font: Choose either 11 or 12 points font size. Most recommended font style is “Times New Roman.” (match font style and size in your résumé to make your application consistent)
- Highlights: Make strategic use of bold and italics
- Margins: Choose margins between 1” and 1.5” all the way around
- Line spacing: Choose consistent line spacing of 1.15”
- Paragraph spacing: Add a blank line between each paragraph.
- Length: a single A4 page or Letter Size. (if your letter goes into a second page, edit out unnecessary and wordy language)
Cover letter outline
Header: At the top of the cover letter include the following information on separate lines:
Your full name: This should be the focal point, larger font size to the rest of the document and bold text
Telephone numbers: Include at least two phone numbers and preferably with different service providers in case there is connectivity problems with one. Include a professional voice recording to receive messages
Date and Human Resource Manager’s information
Add this information to the left margin and structure as follows:
Date: The correct way to format the date is [Month] [Day] [Year] eg. March 18, 2022
Human Resource Manager’s name: Add a blank line after the date and include Human Resource Manager’s name
Company’s full name
- It is good cover letter etiquette to address your cover letter to the Human Resource Manager. If no information was given on “who” to address your job application to, check the company’s website, email or call the company’s HR Unit. If those strategies fail, avoid the generic, old fashioned and impersonal greeting, “To Whom It May Concern “or “Dear Sir/Madam”. Use instead, “Dear Human Resource Manager” which is the standard greeting when no name is available.
- First, carefully review the job description and list the criteria or core strengths the employer is looking for in a potential employee. Research the company: visit the company’s website and if you know someone who already works there you should engage them for insight into the company. This helps in customizing your cover letter.
- Avoid repeating your name in the opening sentence because it’s already mentioned in the “Header”. Include the title of the job you are applying for, how you learned about the position and why you’re interested in the job and the company.
- In one or two paragraphs, make the connection between your previous accomplishments and your suitability for the job in which you are applying. Discuss your most relevant experience, highlighting and providing more details on specific skills (transferable) and qualifications you included in your résumé and focus on how your experiences specifically align with the job requirements. Use numbers to highlight your accomplishments whenever possible. Without quantifying your accomplishments, your cover letter (and résumé) would make less of an impression because there wouldn’t be any context to your experience. For example, indicate how many people you managed, trained or onboarded, how many interviews you conducted, customer satisfaction targets etc. Think of it as a sales pitch that will market your credentials and help you get the interview. Also, briefly clarify any employment gaps from your résumé.
- The third paragraph should demonstrate that you’ve done research on the company and you understand how your goals align with the company’s mission. Show that you can do the job well, you can be a good fit with a team and bring positive attitudes to the workplace.
- Here are a few things to remember regarding the middle paragraphs:
1) Do not rehash the contents of your résumé (not the purpose of a cover letter).
2) Include numbers in your accomplishments.
3) Avoid clichés and overused phrases such as “think outside the box”, “problem solver”, “dynamic”. Instead, describe your past experiences using strong action verbs to highlight the way you actually performed your duties.
4) Spell out abbreviations and acronyms at least the first time you use them.
5) Use a writing tone most appropriate for the job. For instance, if you lack relevant work experience, your tone should express your enthusiasm and adaptability, otherwise, express how you’re distinctly qualified for the job.
6) Demonstrate your ability to work remotely and meet deadlines since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply mention something you accomplished at work despite having to move fully remote.
- Use this space to sum up your suitability for the job and express an interest in continuing to the next stage in the hiring process. Thank the reader for their time and consideration.
- Signoff with a professional and polite closing using any of the following:
- Thank you
Follow with your signature on a line above your typed name
Proof read your cover letter before submitting
Before you submit review thoroughly for errors, clarity, effectiveness and readability
Don’t rely on spell check on your computer
Get a second opinion from a trusted family or friend
Submitting your application online
Read and follow instructions carefully ensuring that you provide all the documents / information requested in the format and size limit given
To scan your documents easily you may download an App from either the Google Play Store (Android) or App Store (iPhone) that can allow you to straighten, trim and focus the document to give a clean and professional look
Ensure to save your document with a suitable title E.g. Judy_Smith_Cover_Letter
Save your application for submission in the format specified in the job advertisement
If a format isn't specified, the best option is to save your application in a PDF format. This way your application is seen in the intended format, no one can change the layout and spell check underlining doesn't appear.
(Note: A PDF is an abbreviation that stands for Portable Document Format. It's a versatile file format created by Adobe that gives people an easy, reliable way to present and exchange documents - regardless of the software, hardware, or operating systems being used by anyone who views the document.)
Use Standard English when drafting your email and do not use abbreviations. Please re-read the body of your email and consider having a second person review.
The subject of your email should also be clear, concise and appropriate – e.g. “Application for the position of Legal Officer”
Review the entire email to ensure that all the attachments are included and correct any errors made before you submit.
For More Information
Persons seeking assistance with employment opportunities or wishing to access further information on the National Employment Service, can visit the National Employment Service Unit at:
- Duke Place, Level 1, 50-54 Duke Street, Port of Spain
Or can call/email using the following:
- Telephone: 299-0300 Ext. 2016 | 2023| 2173 or 2186
For a complete listing of office locations and telephone numbers, click: https://labour.gov.tt/services/national-employment-service