Cover Letter Workshop - What to Include
This cover letter workshop resource provides a detailed explanation of cover letter objectives and information on each section of the cover letter. The OWL maintains a number of resources on cover letters including more concise materials and PowerPoint presentations. Please refer to these if you cannot find information in this workshop.
Contributors:Jenna Holt, Clint Blume, and Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2011-10-04 05:21:44
Once you have collected information on the organization and the position, you should think about what to include in your cover letter. This resource should help you do that.
How to relate your experience to the job advertisement
Begin by identifying key words you found during your audience analysis:
- Words that signal what an employer considers important or essential in hiring for a position.
- Words that give you insight into the skills, accomplishments, personality traits, and levels of education and experience your employer desires.
Consider this example:
A company posts the following job description. Can you identify the key words?
"Looking for a highly motivated, customer oriented individual to work full-time at the customer service desk."
Reading this advertisement for key words would help you see that the employer is looking for a person who is highly motivated, with customer service skills.
To help you decide what information to include in your cover letter, you may want to try the following exercise. Create a table with two columns. In the left column, write the mission and/or goals of the organization. In the right column, list values and goals you share with the company that align.
You can do the same thing with the position requirement. In the left column, write the qualifications your potential employer desires, either from your job advertisement or from information you've received from another person. Next, in the right column list examples that support your claim that you have these qualifications.
After you have completed your tables, rank each qualification in order of importance according to the job advertisement. Be sure to include proof of your qualifications you feel are most important to the company in your cover letter.
Deciding which qualifications to include
In order to market your abilities in a cover letter, you must know not only what your prospective employer needs, but also what you have to offer prospective employers. Think carefully about your past. Ask yourself what skills you have used at school or work that can be used at your next place of employment. Try to answer the question, how can I help the organization?
For example, if you have been successful working with people, you can show you have interpersonal skills that may help you at your next job. Some transferable skills, skills that can be used from job to job, include:
- Leadership qualities
- Ability to complete multiple tasks at the same time ("multi-tasking")
- Teamwork skills
- Ability to meet deadlines
- Interpersonal skills
- Initiative to complete projects without supervision ("ability to work independently")
- Written communications skills
- Verbal communications skills
- Computer skills
Important: Be specific when you describe these abilities - just using the terms will not help you. Employers have seen them before. Be specific and try to discuss particular examples where these abilities led to measurable positive results.
For example, if you want to know whether you have strong written communications skills, think about your experiences with writing. Have you done any writing at a previous workplace? If so, what kind of writing? Memos, business letters, manuals, reports? Have you taken writing classes at college? Have you won any writing awards?
Before deciding to highlight specific skills in your cover letter, it is essential for you to learn which skills are most relevant to the job for which you are applying. You should include proof that you have the most important qualifications for a position.
Afraid of not meeting the requirements?
You should apply for any job you want, within reason. Carefully consider your past accomplishments and employment history, with the intention of discovering what skills you have used at a previous place of employment that you can utilize at your next place of employment. It's important to be honest with yourself and with your potential employers. Remember, you're looking for a good match between your situation and the organization's situation.