Use This Cover Letter Outline for Job Success

A cover letter is an important part of your job-hunting process. How can you use a cover letter outline to create a better cover letter?



Table of Contents

  1. What Is a cover letter outline?
  2. Cover letter outline to use
  3. Best practices for a cover letter

What Is a cover letter outline?

A cover letter is a one-page letter you write to your potential employer highlighting the most important experiences and skills you have. Essentially, this short letter explains why they should hire you for a specific job that you are applying for. This is a chance to speak to your own work ethic and what value you would bring to the company.

Strong cover letters should include answers to some of the basic questions your potential employer would ask you in an interview, such as why you’re a good fit for the job, and the qualifications you have that match what the job needs. When you can do that, you show that you’ve given a lot of thought before applying to that respective job. One of the most important themes in the job search is demonstrating your thoughtfulness and relevant qualifications.

It is always useful to start with a cover letter outline before you dive into writing the whole thing. A cover letter outline should mimic the proper cover letter format. This should include the following five items: a header, an opening paragraph where you state your career purpose, a second paragraph where you delve into your qualifications and experience, followed by a closing paragraph and a sign-off.

Cover letter outline to use

1. Header

Your header should include several key things: your contact information including your full name, phone number, street address, city, state and ZIP code. A professional email address is great to include as well. You can also include a link to a professional online profile or relevant portfolio if you have one, such as a LinkedIn profile. This is not required, but depending on the job, it may be useful for your employer to use it as a reference or point of contact. It may also reinforce the skills you highlight in your cover letter and CV.

Following your contact information, include the contact information of the hiring manager or recruiter. This should be their name, job title, company name, phone number, street address, city, state and postal code. If you do not know or have the name of your recruiter, you can omit this information.

2. First paragraph: Strong opening and career purpose

Now you can begin writing the body of your cover letter. All cover letters begin with some form of salutation or greeting. Some examples of this can be “Dear Mr. or Ms. [Last Name],” “Dear hiring manager.” Choose a greeting that is polite and professional. If possible, try to address the letter to a specific person.

Your first paragraph should have a strong opener to catch the employer’s attention, as well as state your career purpose. Think of your first sentence as a sales pitch. Do your best to sell yourself by highlighting your most relevant experiences and skills, and how they qualify you for the job in question. Voice your enthusiasm and passion for that work industry. The first paragraph also often includes where you found the job listing. If another manager sent you a referral to this job, let that be known in your cover letter. Limit this to your first paragraph.

3. Second paragraph: more in-depth qualifications and experience

Your second paragraph needs to go more in-depth on your past experiences and explain how you’re qualified for the job. You may be wondering what skills you should highlight. One of the best ways to determine what qualifications to illustrate is by looking at the job title, job posting or other relevant job searches. Place yourself in the employer’s shoes. What qualifications do you think they would be looking for in a job candidate?

This is not a paragraph to boast about every single one of your past experiences and skills. Hone in on the most relevant ones, as well as your strong suits. Relevancy is key. Employers want to see why you chose their company, and why you’re a good fit. This is the section to show that. It is a good idea to do some research on the company’s website and have a better understanding of their values, goals and what they are trying to achieve before you write your cover letter. A little research can go a long way in cover letters.

4. Third paragraph: Call to action

This final paragraph is where you have a call to action. This section is where you reiterate your interest in the position, your strengths and your value to the company, but most importantly, to encourage the employer to take the next step. Clearly state that you would like to continue this discussion past your cover letter, perhaps in an interview or phone call. You can also let this potential employer know that you have enclosed a CV with your cover letter or attached a CV to your email so they can get a more detailed look at your career history.

5. Sign-off

Your sign-off should be concise and professional, much like your salutation. Some examples of this include “Best regards,” “Sincerely,” “Thank you for your consideration,” or even just a simple “Thank you.” This complimentary closing should be followed by your signature and printed name.

Best practices for a cover letter

Now that you know what items to include in your cover letter outline and the basics on how to write one, you should learn the best practices for writing one. There are a few main things to keep in mind when you want to write a fantastic cover letter.

1. Don’t just rehash your CV

Cover letters and CVs are distinct for a specific reason. It is very important that you do not just repeat the content from your CV in your cover letter.It may be tempting to include every and all your experiences but just focus on highlights. A cover letter hints at your accomplishments and gives the reader a reason to want to look at your full CV. A good cover letter is vital to help you proceed to the next step towards your intended job position.

Remember, your cover letter serves as a way for you to connect to your potential employer before you speak with them later down in the hiring process. Cover letters allow you to emphasise why you are qualified for the job and why they should pick you over the competition.

2. Showcase how you can help the company

While CVs can certainly speak to your experience level, cover letters allow you to truly showcase your value to their company. You can better explain why you would be the best candidate for the job based on how beneficial you would be to them with the skills you possess. Describe how your past experiences shaped you and your work ethic. Show your potential employers what you can bring to their company.

3. Request the opportunity to discuss other opportunities to benefit the company

Hiring managers and recruiters love candidates that can speak to their capability of doing the job at hand. But what they do not get often are job candidates that offer or request to discuss further how they, as an individual, can benefit their company. This shows you are passionate about not only the position but the company as a whole. It is also another way to show that you did your homework for that company. Remember that establishing a good rapport between yourself and the hiring manager can help you be noticed among the competition.

FAQ: Cover letter outline

Q: How do you determine the best words to use for a cover letter?

You should include certain words depending on the type of job you are looking to be hired in. Some areas you can look for inspiration are cover letter samples in your specific industry, the company’s website, and even the job posting itself. These will give you a better idea of words to use in your cover letter that will help you stand out.

CVHelp has plenty of cover letter examples based on specific industries if you need more ideas. They are highly customisable and you can tailor each one how you see fit. Another useful tool that is offered by CVHelp to help you get started on your cover letter is a wide variety of cover letter templates. Choose from select styles based on your job position and individual preference.

Q: Is a cover letter really important?

Yes, cover letters are very important aspects of the job search. It is imperative that you write and submit one, especially if they are asking for one. Cover letters better shape who you are as an individual much more than your resume can. It also helps to establish a rapport with your future employer.

Of course, cover letters may be more useful depending on the individual employer or the certain situation. For instance, if you were referred to that job position by another person you have worked with, you can mention this in your letter. Connections can be key in your job search.

Q: Can you write a cover letter even if you don’t have a lot of professional achievements?

Of course. You do not necessarily need to have professional achievements to be hired at a job. The most important thing is to highlight what you can provide to the company. Showcase how you can be beneficial to their company and why you would be an asset to their team. The better you can speak to your skill set, the more likely you are going to be taken to the next step in the hiring process, regardless of the number of professional achievements you boast.

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