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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is a cover letter?

Along with a resume, a cover letter is one of the classic elements of submitting a job application. A cover letter is a one-page document providing further information about the work experience and skills outlined in a candidate’s resume. It’s also where applicants can detail their specific qualifications and state why they want to work for your organization. 

What should a cover letter include?

Besides fleshing out resume facts, the purpose of writing a cover letter is for a job applicant to introduce themselves in a personal and memorable way and paint a picture of how or why they would be a valuable asset to your organization. An effective cover letter demonstrates why a candidate would be the right hire for the role and should include the following:

  • How their work experience fulfills the job requirements
  • How their skill set and experience-level match the needs of the role
  • Why the candidate wants the position and thus to work for your company

What should an internship cover letter include?

Candidates applying for internships will often have less concrete work experience as they are usually students, recent graduates, or someone looking to change direction in their career. In this case, when writing a cover letter for an internship, candidates should outline their relevant coursework or focus on providing details of their skills or expertise that match the required criteria. Internship candidates should also explain what they hope to learn and achieve from the opportunity in their cover letter.

What should a cover letter not include?

Some of what should be left off a cover letter might be obvious, but here is a quick checklist to run through.

  • Any false or misleading information regarding work experience or skills
  • Irrelevant personal information or jokes, cover letters should be kept professional
  • Typos or mistakes
  • A one-to-one repetition of resume facts
  • Mention of any other job openings or companies that the candidate is considering
  • Salary expectations  unless stated otherwise 

How is a cover letter structured?

Cover letters typically follow an established structure consisting of the candidate’s contact information, a salutation, the body, closing with a call to action, and a signature. The entire document should only be one page.

Head: contact information, date, subject line

At the top of the page should be the candidate’s name, email address, and phone number. Many candidates also include a link to their profiles on professional social networking sites like LinkedIn. The candidate’s information should be followed by the employer’s contact details, if applicable. This is followed, flush right, by the date the cover letter is created. Finally, in the subject line, the name of the job being applied to is stated. Otherwise, it should be mentioned in the first sentence, right after the salutation. 

Body: salutation, main section, closing formula, signature

The body of the cover letter should begin with an appropriate salutation and be addressed to the recruiting or hiring manager if named in the job description. Generally, the body will comprise two to three short, concise paragraphs before transitioning to a closing that includes a call to action, such as suggesting a meeting or phone call. Candidates should end their cover letter with a formal closing and their signature.

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