Structuring and Formatting a Cover Letter

This is a follow-up to a previous post in which we discussed what a cover letter is, when to use one, and the different ways in which it could help you. Today, we’ll look at the proper structure and formatting of a cover letter. As you read along, check out our template for an example of the techniques discussed.

formatting a written cover letter

  • There are 7 sections to a cover letter: Heading, Date, Address, Salutation, Body, Closing, and Signature. Make sure to skip a line after each of the sections, and after each paragraph of the body of the letter. Skip two-three lines after the closing, so that you have room to hand-write your signature.
  • Begin with a Heading – your name, contact info, etc. – which matches the heading on your resume.  Below that, put today’s Date.
  • Add an Address which will include the name, job title, company name, and company address of the person to whom you are sending the letter.
  • Include a Salutation such as “Dear Mr. Smith.” It is important that you find the actual name of the person – do not just say, “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
  • The Body is the content of your letter. More on that later.
  • Your Closing will probably say something like “Sincerely” or “Yours Truly”. Below that you will add your Signature, with a hand-written signature above your typed name.

formatting an emailed cover letter

  • Emailed cover letters are much less formally formatted than printed cover letters, but the content should still be professional and not too casual.
  • Omit the Heading, Date, and Address.
  • Type the Salutation, Body, and Closing in the email message.
  • Add a Signature which includes your printed name, email address, LinkedIn profile, and phone number.
  • Include your resume as a PDF attachment.

Structure of a Cover Letter

  • Each paragraph answers a question.
  • Paragraph 1: What job are you applying for? Be direct and specific with why you’re contacting them.
  • Paragraph 2: What makes you the best candidate for the job? Explain why you’re uniquely qualified, giving examples of relevant skills/accomplishments/experience. This will likely be your longest paragraph. If it gets too long, break part of it up into bullet points.
  • Paragraph 3: Why do you want this job with this company? Talk about your passion for doing this kind of work. Also make sure to say something specific about the company – what seems appealing about them? (Good customer reviews, state-of-the-art-technology, high growth rate. etc.) It’s a good idea to do research on the company before writing this section.
  • Paragraph 4: What are the next steps? This may look something like, “Enclosed please find my resume. I would love to meet with you to interview for this position. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.”

a final word of caution

Resist the impulse to create one cover letter and use it for everything. A well-written cover letter is tailored to a specific job opening, focusing on the most relevant skills and passions for that particular job. It’s a good practice to write a brand new cover letter for each and every job you apply for. You can still use the 4-paragraph structure listed above – think of it as the skeleton of your cover letter. But the details of what you write – the meat on the bones – will change.

The Career Center is here to help! You can visit us at 7711 Goodwood Blvd for one-on-one help with writing and polishing cover letters.

Written by Lynnette Lee

New Career Center Books

The lazy days of summer have come to an end. . .but it’s not always easy to kick your career back into high gear. If you need a boost, the Career Center’s got your back, with these books on motivation, productivity, and efficiency:

Harvard Business Review Guide to Being More Productive
The Harvard Business Review consults subject matter experts to publish how-to guides on a variety of career- and business-related topics. This guide contains a compendium of techniques to maximize one’s productivity while avoiding burnout. Topics include: Prioritizing tasks, Cultivating willpower, Minimizing distractions, Focusing on meaningful work, Taking proper vacations, Recharging with micro-breaks, and Setting healthy boundaries.

Eat That Frog! Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done
by Brian Tracy
From the book: “There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re done with the worst thing you’ll have to do all day.” Author Brian Tracy uses the live frog as a metaphor for all of the unpleasant – but crucial – tasks we tend to avoid. The book offers suggestions and strategies to help us stop procrastinating, get the frog-eating over with, and get on with our lives.

Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive
by Charles Duhigg
Have you ever wondered how some people manage to accomplish so much? Why some companies have such breakthrough successes? Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg used his investigative skills to search for the answers to these questions. His findings are published in this treatise on the science of productivity. Each chapter covers a real-life success story, followed by an in-depth analysis of the productivity techniques involved.

Harvard Business Review Guide to Making Every Meeting Matter
If you’ve ever left a meeting thinking, “That was a total waste of time!”, this is the book for you. This guide aims to help make your meetings more efficient and useful. Sections include: Setting a purpose, Preparing an achievable agenda, Inviting the right people, Moderating conversation, Regaining control, and Ensuring follow-through.

If you’d like to place a hold on one of these books, please visit the East Baton Rouge Parish Library website.

Written by Lynnette Lee

Career Center Wins National Award

We are officially an “Exemplary Career Center”!

We are proud to announce that the EBRPL Career Center was awarded the “Exemplary Career Center” award at the National Career Development Association’s 2019 National Conference in Houston this summer.

The Career Center was nominated by career counseling colleagues from LSU and BRCC and endorsed by a number of former clients who added their testimonials to the nomination. A big thank you to our nominators and supporters.

We were recognized for the large variety of services which our program offers, including one-on-one services (such as career counseling or mock interview), groups (such as job club), a broad seminar program, and our community outreach. Last but not least, the quality of our work was deemed outstanding, as evidenced by our numerous testimonials.

If you want to learn more about what the Career Center offers, please read our FAQs. If you are interested in taking advantage of any of our services, give us a call at 225-231-3733.

Written by Anne Nowak

Freshman Year for Free™

Do you want to get the equivalent of a year of college for free?

This might just be possible through the relatively new and innovative non-profit organization Modern States Education Alliance. Modern States is not a college and does not grant college credit directly. Instead they are taking advantage of the college credit by exam system, such as Advanced Placement (AP) and College Level Examination Program (CLEP). https://modernstates.org/freshman-year-free/

how it works

Modern States partnered with top universities and created online courses that prepare students for the AP and CLEP exams. The online courses claim to teach in a few weeks what the same college courses would take one or two semesters to achieve. These online classes are basically test prep courses. However, it is entirely free to register and take them. After completing a class it is then up to the student to register for and take the respective AP or CLEP exam on their own. Through a voucher system Modern States will reimburse the exam fees. This way it is possible to take a year’s worth of college credit entirely for free. Take a look https://modernstates.org/about-us/who-we-are/

a word of caution

Modern States is open about not every college accepting AP and CLEP credits. They include a feature on the website where you can check which university accepts those credits, and, in the case of AP, what the minimum acceptable score is. https://modernstates.org/affiliated-universities/universities/  In any case it is recommended that you check with your college of choice directly also. While some colleges do accept CLEP and AP, they might be limiting the number of credits they are willing to honor. Or they might accept AP/CLEP for Biology but not for Calculus for example. The website will not go into such detail for each institution.

advantages

Regardless of the above concerns, this is a legitimate way for many students to start working towards a college degree. It can be useful to current high school students or recent grads, as well as adults who are looking to start college for the first time or continue their previously interrupted studies. Current college students who wish to get through their degree faster than the normal four years could benefit from this initiative as well.

If you are unsure where your college or career path will take you, the Career Center can help. You can call us at 225-231-3733 or visit in person at 7711 Goodwood Blvd. We also have a number of CLEP study guides available for checkout.

Written by Anne Nowak

Tech Talk: Learning Express Job and Career Accelerator

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library recently acquired a new resource to assist jobseekers: the Job and Career Accelerator service of the Learning Express database.

How to Access It:

The Learning Express database is free to anyone with an East Baton Rouge Parish Library card. Go to the library website, then click on The Digital Library. Choose to search the “A-Z List”, then find “Learning Express 3.0” which takes you to the Learning Express database. Now click on “Job and Career Accelerator”.

How it’s organized:

There are six sections to this resource.

Find a Career Match: These assessments can be a good career planning tool for people who don’t know where to start. The Interest Matcher asks you about how much – or how little – you are interested in doing certain types of tasks.  The Skills Assessment is similar, except it asks about what skills you already have.  Each assessment will, based on your answers, provide you with a list of professions and types of work which match your interests or skills.

Explore Occupations: This tool provides detailed information about 1000 different careers.  There are several different options for how to search and narrow down results. For each job title, the database gives information on job description, average salary, projected demand, education needed, skills preferred, and more.

Search for Jobs and Internships: This takes you directly to job postings and internship opportunities on Indeed.

Tools to Get Hired: This section provides samples of job search-related documents, including resumes, cover letters, networking letters, and post-interview thank-you notes. There is also a how-to-interview tutorial and a resume-building tool.

Career Library: This section has in-depth guides on how to start a career in several common fields, including healthcare, teaching, paralegal, police, and culinary arts. There are also specialized guides for how to change careers and how to use social networking in the job search.

School and Scholarship Finder: The Scholarship Finder helps you search among 24,000 different scholarships to find scholarships for which you might qualify. The School Finder helps you locate a school that meets your educational goals and needs. It includes a Quick Match tool that helps you find schools that might be a good match for you.

What do we like most about this resource?

One-stop shop: This database brings together a lot of resources for different aspects of job searching and career planning under one roof. You can take an assessment, choose a career, write a resume, apply for jobs, and find a school, all under one roof. That can be very convenient.

Good information: There are lots of tools here to help you become a savvy jobseeker. For instance, the sample letters in the Tools to Get Hired section are helpful examples. And the guides in the Career Library are extremely informative, if there is a guide for your chosen career.

Resume Keywords: This was our absolute favorite part of the database. The Resume Builder contains a list of Job-Specific Keywords which you can use to plug into your resume. For example, if you look for “Accountant”, a long list of keywords and skills related to accounting and finance will come up. You can then choose some of those keywords to fill out the “Skills” section of your resume. This is a great way to make sure your resume bursts with the key skills that will grab a hiring manager’s attention.

What do we dislike most about this resource?

Derivative: This database has very little in it which is original. The job postings come from Indeed. The career information comes from ONET. And the general structure of the resources comes from Career Cruising, another career database which we’ve discussed extensively.

Resume Builder: We know, we seem to be contradicting ourselves. We said that we loved the Keywords section of the Resume Builder. And that’s true. But we found the rest of the Resume Builder inflexible and hard to use. It uses a one-size-fits-all formula for the resume template, making it difficult to tailor a resume to suit your specific skills and audience. We much prefer referring our patrons to our own resume templates, which are 100% customizable.

Written by Richard Wright and Lynnette Lee