Cover letters may be one of the most difficult pieces of professional writing of our careers. The primary goal of a cover letter is to give potential employers an impression of who you are, inform them of the qualifications you possess for the position, and how you present yourself and communicate your thoughts. Most importantly, this provides you with an opportunity to show why you want a position at this institution and what you can do for them. Conveying these essential characteristics will help move your name to the keep pile. The challenge of expressing the reasons why you are qualified and should be considered for this position will be easier as you practice writing cover letters. Moreover, these one to two page documents will help you stand apart from the other applicants by highlighting your unique characteristics and skills.
Every cover letter should be unique for each job you apply for. Creating a template helps stabilize the structure of your cover letter. If there are a few sentences that really speak about you that are applicable to all jobs then you can keep those. Most of the content will change with each position you are applying for. Editing your cover letter for each job will show that you have taken the time and effort to thoroughly read the job description and qualifications required for that position. Tailoring your cover letter will be proof that you researched the institution and that you are a strong, confident candidate for the position.
Cover letters synthesize your resume with a position’s job description. Clearly and sincerely stating your purpose for applying to a particular job will help the search committee notice you because you connected the dots yourself instead of leaving it for them to put together. Each successive cover letter will be easier to write because you will know what to look for in the job description. Some job descriptions will explicitly state what they want you to address in your cover letter. Typically, employers want you to discuss what I stated earlier—how you meet the qualifications, what can you do for them, and why you want this position. Show detail and explain why you chose certain jobs and tasks to represent the qualifications they ask for. Through this document you have the potential to leave a lasting impression on individuals who could be your future coworkers.