WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

How to Write a Great Cover Letter

Tuesday | August 16, 2016 | by Annie Paul

Colleagues looking at a notebook together

One of the most daunting tasks for any job seeker is writing a cover letter as part of a job application. Although many think cover letters are obsolete with the advent of new employment application technologies, cover letters are actually more important now because technology makes it so easy.

Cover letters are an important part of the job application process for several reasons:

  • They provide a snapshot of who you are beyond the qualifications on your résumé.
  • They expressly say why you want to work for the company you are applying to.
  • The company can get an idea of your writing skill level.
  • The company can see how much you know about them and if you researched them.

Consider this scenario: If I want a job as a bookkeeper, I will go to a job search site (like Indeed, LinkedIn Jobs, or Zip Recruiter), build my personal profile, and upload my résumé. Now all I have to do is search jobs that potentially fit my skill set, and click “apply.” It’s that easy! But, when a company calls me for a phone screening or interview, I’m suddenly stricken with fear—I’ve applied to so many jobs with the one-click application that I don’t even know which company is calling me! Here is where a cover letter becomes important because it personalizes your application. Trust me, the extra work and effort you put into your cover letter will impress employers and pay off in the end.

Your cover letter is the perfect way to “connect the dots,” by telling your professional and educational story, showcasing your skills, and describing how and why you got to where you are today. The key here is to customize it for each company you apply to, rather than just copying the same cover letter over and over. It’s a time-consuming practice, but one that will help you stand out from other candidates.

For example, if you are applying to be a program assistant at a specific company, do your research on its services, mission, goals, client base, etc., and tailor the cover letter based on why you want to work at that particular company, as well as why you are a good fit for the role. For example:

XYZ Organization New York, New York

To the Hiring Committee:
I am applying for the position of Program Assistant at XYZ Organization. I was referred to this position by a current employee of yours—Jane Doe.

XYZ Organization’s mission aligns well with my outlook in life—being a compassionate individual, a solid contributor to society, and always striving to make the world a better place. If I were to join the XYZ team, I know we can make positive strides together.

From there, you would highlight your background (professional and educational) and why and how you believe that what you have learned in your career will move the company forward. In other words, you need to explain why the company should consider you an asset to its team. Most importantly, you should show how your interests and mission to XYZ Organization’s mission make it a good match for both sides.

It takes practice to write the perfect cover letter. To help you get started, here are some tips to consider:

  • Make sure you send the right company the right cover letter for the right position.
  • Have someone read the cover letter to look out for any grammatical and/or spelling errors.
  • Keep your cover letter under one page.
  • Do not include any pictures or intimate details (age, gender, religion, etc.) about yourself.
  • Refrain from using colorful fonts—it could strain the readers’ eyes and makes the content hard to read.
  • Tell only the truth in your cover letter. Be honest about your experience and do not embellish facts about yourself.

Remember, your cover letter is an opportunity to show employers your creative side, and how passionate you are about the job. It also reflects how much time and effort you put into writing a specialized letter just for a position with them; it shows that you are serious about joining the team.

Make no mistake—writing a great cover letter takes time and research, but will prove incredibly valuable when it comes to getting your dream job. Pair it with a great resume (12 Tips), and you will soon be headed toward a successful future full of interview invitations.

Good luck!

If you are interested in opportunities at World Education Services, visit the WES Job Portal.

Annie Paul is the Senior Human Resources Generalist at World Education Services.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).