#12 Shovelbums Guide Part 2: The Cover Letter

I was reminded by @processarch on Twitter that employers often ask for a cover letter.  This brief post will go over the main parts of a standard cover letter.

A cover letter has five parts: The heading, the introduction, the body, the contact information, and the closing.  I'll take them in order.

The heading includes your address in the upper right corner followed by the date the next line down on the left, a space, and the contact information to the person you are sending the letter too.  I always include a subject line as well.  It usually says, “In reference to Shovelbums job posting,” or something to that effect.  

The introduction paragraph is preceded by the salutation.  It’s OK to write, “Dear”, or simply, “Mr. or  Mrs. (name)”.  If you do not know the name of the person you are sending the letter to then use, “To Whom It May Concern”.

Included in the introduction paragraph is information regarding where you heard about the posting and what you are applying for.  Employers often advertise on multiple websites and for multiple positions.  Starting with a paragraph stating where you heard about the job and what position you are applying for puts the employer in the right frame of mind to read your letter and your CV.

The body can be one paragraph or multiple paragraphs.  Keep in mind, though, that the cover letter should not exceed one side of one page.  So, what goes into the body?  This is basically a place for you to sell yourself to your future employer.  For CRM I sometimes include details about my availability followed by a brief accounting of my experience and my leadership experience.  Taylor the paragraph to the job you are seeking.  If you are looking for a job in the Southwest and have experience there then highlight that.  However, if you don’t have any experience in the Southwest then highlight experience at other jobs that could translate to the job you are applying for.  Highlight things such as Total Station experience or similar survey experience.

The final paragraph is where you put your contact information.  Include phone numbers and email addresses.  Also, include the times that you can be reached.

Close the letter with a simple “thank you” or “sincerely”.  Don’t get fancy.  Leave about five lines of space after the closing before you type your name if you are printing the letter for mailing.  That way your can include your signature between your name and the closing.  Most letters are emailed these days and a signature is not expected, however.  The last line of the cover letter should say, “Enclosures (#)”.  The # is the number of documents that follow the cover letter.  Typically they include your CV and references.

So, that’s it.  There are different ways to structure a cover letter but this is the way I learned and it hasn’t failed me yet.  Email me with questions or if you want me to take a look at your letter.  Just look at it like a formula and you are inserting the variables.  Maybe I took too much math in college!

Written in Austin, Nevada.