Guest Author - Susan D. Bates
Many college students have a difficult time writing cover letters. This is partly because students often lack experience writing formal business letters. Therefore, if you are not already skilled at business letter writing, it is to learn the conventions of cover letter writing.
While there is some variation, a typical cover letter is often made up of four specific sections: contact information, the greeting, the body of the letter, and the closing. See descriptions of typical cover letter sections below:
The first section of a cover letter contains your contact information and the contact information of the prospective employer. This section also includes the date when the cover letter was written. Below the contact information you may also include a reference line that lists the job title and number for which you are applying.
The greeting is a line where you greet the prospective employer. Begin with Dear. Then, use the appropriate formal prefix (such as Mr., Ms., or Dr.) of the prospective employer followed by his or her last name. When addressing women who do not have a specialized prefix (Such as Dr., or Rev.) it is generally best to use "Ms." unless you know that she prefers "Miss" or "Mrs."
Body of the letter
The body of the letter is typically broken up into three paragraphs. Each of the three paragraphs preforms a specific function.
The first paragraph tells employers the purpose of your letter. If you are applying for a job, this paragraph should explain which position you are seeking. This paragraph can also be used to impress the employer with some knowledge about the company.
The second paragraph tells employers more about you. It should explain why you are the best match for the position. It should summarize your qualifications and entice the employer to read your resume. If you need to clarify any information on your resume, that can be done in this paragraph as well.
The third paragraph is where you wrap up the body of your letter. It thanks employers for their time. It also tells the employers how they can reach you or when you will be contacting them. In this paragraph you can also remind the employers of your phone number or email address for their convenience.
The closing should begin with a formal closing word or phrase, such as "sincerely." If you are mailing or faxing the cover letter, you should include a hand-written signature with your name typed underneath. If your cover letter is an email with a resume attachment, you can type your name in place of the signature.
As part of the closing you will also want to let the employer know that your resume is enclosed or attached. Below the signature line you will write "enclosure" if you are mailing your cover letter and resume. Write "attachment" if your cover letter is an email or fax with your resume attached.
It is important to become comfortable with cover letter writing to make your job search easier. In addition to reading this article, look for an example of a formal business letter to see how the final product should look. Business-letter writing examples can also be found on the Internet.