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How to Write a Cover Letter for Business Correspondence

I developed organizational management skills while in corporate employment and later with my own business. This article is a result of that.

Photo by Rae Tian on Unsplash

I'll show you how to write a cover letter for any occasion. It's essential when sending a resume for a job application, but it needs to be done correctly for any business situation.

A cover letter is an excellent strategy that displays your communication skills and makes you stand out as a professional. So let’s get right into it.

I’ve Been on Both Sides of the Issue

Since I have a working knowledge of both aspects, I can give you crucial guidelines to help you achieve positive results.

  • I experienced writing a cover letter to go along with my resume in my job-hunting days over 45 years ago. So I know what worked for me.
  • I also experienced being the Human Resources personnel responsible for reviewing resumes. I know what I looked for when hiring.

Why You Need to Include a Cover Letter

Cover letters are useful to go along with many types of communication, not just resumes. No matter what kind of document you’re sending, it’s crucial to include a well-written cover letter. It serves as an introduction, but it also provides a summary of what to expect.

You do want to make an excellent first impression. The ability to communicate in written form and express your thoughts in writing is essential in any profession. A cover letter helps present those abilities. It’s a business strategy that contributes to marketing yourself.

A well-written cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd — to make an impression — and to get noticed.

What Do Employers Read First, the Cover Letter or Resume?

After graduating from college back in the 70s, and I applied for my first job, I had included a cover letter with my resume. I mentioned why I wanted to work for the company, and I talked about what I can do for them.

When I went in for an interview, my boss told me that he never read my resume but wanted to hire me. I was puzzled and had to ask, “Why are you so sure you want me if you didn’t read my resume?”

He answered, “I know all I need to know from your cover letter.”

He continued to explain that the effort I put into the cover letter had made such an impression that he didn’t need to know more.

He said that it showed him I could construct clear and precise sentences with a straightforward and logical style. A resume wouldn’t necessarily indicate that.

What Is the Advantage of a Cover Letter?

1. It shows that you know how to write and communicate.

When I used to read through resumes to select people to hire, I found many people who didn’t know how to write English well. I often wonder where their education went wrong. They were intelligent people. They just missed the crucial details with writing skills.

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Proper grammar and spelling in a cover letter help display how useful one can be when considered for a job position. That would not be apparent from the resume itself, and it can make a difference when applying for a high paid job, for example.

2. It shows that you care enough to put extra effort into your presentation.

If you rush to get your resume out to potential employers without caring to do a complete job by including a cover letter, that clearly shows that you won’t have the drive to complete crucial tasks at work.

A boss would not have to read a resume that comes to him or her if it does not include a cover letter. Your lack of value to the firm is already known merely by leaving out that important detail.

It’s best not to be one of those people. Show you have the ingenuity to succeed.

3. It provides additional information to whatever is attached.

That applies to any item, not just a resume. For example, shipping products for sale can include a cover letter to thank the customer for the order.

Its message can consist of some useful information about the product or warranty status, for example. It can also serve as a welcoming letter that could have a positive effect on future business.

What to Say and What to Avoid

What should you say in a cover letter?

Get to the point immediately in the first paragraph. Introduce the nature of the communication clearly with any relevant details that you know will benefit the recipient. It should include information that will make their work easier.

What should you avoid in a cover letter?

Avoid any remarks that are not directly related to the nature of the communication. It’s best to limit it to one page. Keep paragraphs short, and no more than three for four.

When I see long blocks of text, I usually avoid reading, and I go on to something else. That already is an indication that one was not capable of keeping his or her thoughts compartmentalized. That’s especially crucial in a business situation.

What Is the Proper Format for a Cover Letter?

How do you format the heading?

Your contact information is essential, so the recipient knows who and where you are. So, construct a heading on top with your name and address.

Include your phone number (with the area code) in the heading and specify if it’s a cell phone or home phone. It’s vital to make that clear since some people might try to text you on a landline, and you’ll never see it.

It’s also helpful to include your email address as well if it’s appropriate for communication.

The heading can be centered or left-justified, but avoid fancy fonts. It’s best to use a standard Times New Roman style. Experiment with sizing to see how it stands out. Generally, it’s a good idea to use a larger font for your name.

Your address can be a single line, as in my example below, or separate lines for your address and city. Either way works fine. It’s okay to be creative. You can give your heading a little character, as I did with a line under my name in the image below. But don’t go overboard. Keep it simple.

Photo by Glenn Stok © 2020

How do you accurately address the recipient?

It’s best not to use a generic salutation like “To whom it may concern.” That would show you didn’t care enough to research the company to find the appropriate person.

Find the full name and address of the person you need to contract, and put that at the top, just under today’s date. Then after a single space, begin with “Dear [name]” and a colon. Less formal would have a comma instead of a colon. The name can be the full first and last name. If you use a title, follow it with just the last name, such as “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Ms. Jones.”

How do you properly close a cover letter?

Finish off with a call to action. Make it clear in no demanding terms what you want to occur next.

Complete it with a sign-off. Many people have trouble with this simple task. They don’t want to sound silly; that’s understandable. The usual term is to say “Sincerely” or “Best Regards,” followed by your full name beneath that.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Job

Don’t even think of applying for a job without knowing everything you can find about the company. In the days before the Internet, I used to go to the library to look up information on a company I was interested in joining.

These days you have no excuse since the web makes it so easy to find anything you need to know, including the top personnel.

Once you have full knowledge of the organization’s inner workings, use some of that knowledge in your cover letter to show you know it. In other words, refer to specifics and how you see yourself fitting in.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Business Matter

In my over 30 years managing my own small business, I’ve had many occasions where I needed to write cover letters to large corporations’ top management. I knew I needed to stand out since they are inundated with mailings from people trying to get past the gatekeeper.

Therefore, you must do everything right. Follow the guidelines I discussed above for job applications. Every detail I mentioned about the process of writing a cover letter is the same when you’re using it for business-related communications.

Just remember to keep it brief. Business people are busy. Stay on topic and never go off on tangents. It’s best to get to the point and be done with it.

When I get a lengthy letter, I tend to leave it for last. Many times, it gets berried and I never get to it at all. That goes for emails too.

So, keep that in mind when you want to get attention to your cover letter.

To Conclude

As I explained earlier, personnel hiring applicants don’t need to read a resume to get a good idea of the person they are considering. I was surprised when I discovered that during my job interview. So, if you’re sending a resume for a job, make your best impression with the cover letter.

© 2020 Glenn Stok


Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 24, 2020:

I appreciate your comment Brenda. Thank you. That's a good point, the reader might not finish reading if we lose their attention.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on November 24, 2020:

I found this article very helpful.

You are so right about getting straight to the point. If you lose the reader's attention he will not finish reading your cover letter.

Great information for you to share.

Have a great day.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 23, 2020:

Thanks for you comment, Liz. I’m glad you noticed how I used reasoning from my personal experience to back up my tips. It means a lot to know readers appreciate that.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 23, 2020:

This is an excellent and very helpful article. It is great that you can use your experience to help others. I especially appreciate your reasoning which backs up the tips given.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 23, 2020:

Thank you, Shafqat. It’s great to see that you thought so highly of it.

Shafqat M from UK on November 22, 2020:

Well-written, informative and truly useful article, shedding light on every aspect of the art of writing impeccable Cover Letters.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 22, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy, for your wonderful remarks about my guidelines. And I truly appreciate that you are sharing it.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 22, 2020:

Your suggestions are concise and to the point regarding the importance of cover letters. It should help people who are currently looking for work. I'll pin this so that others can find it.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 22, 2020:

Thank you Ivana. I'm glad you found my guidelines for a cover letter useful. It came from many years of writing business letters.

Ivana Divac from Serbia on November 22, 2020:

This is such a well-written and useful article. Thanks for sharing!

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