After spending so much time on your resume, it can feel frustrating to find out you also need to write a cover letter. But rather than thinking of this requirement as a burden, view the cover letter as a platform. This is your chance to explain why you’re the best fit for a job and prove it, all in one place. If you think an employer might have concerns about your work history, you can use a cover letter to ease their fears.

That’s a lot of information to pack into one letter. Fortunately, there’s a standard template you can follow.

1. Contact Information

Begin your letter with your own contact information. Include your name, address, phone number, and email address. You can even include your Sirvo URL. If you do, make sure you’ve chosen a custom Sirvo URL that uses your name or a professional phrase, not just random numbers.

If you’d like, you can use the same header as your resume. Your resume header should already have your name and contact information, and using it for your cover letter creates a consistent look across your application documents.

After your own information, list the company or hiring manager’s information. A name, job title, company name, and address is sufficient. Including the employer’s contact information is a traditional practice that’s expected in physical cover letters. However, it’s not always relevant today. For example, in emails or when filling out an online form, you can skip your employer’s contact information.

2. Greeting

A greeting is so simple that it doesn’t seem worth mentioning. But what’s important about the greeting is that you use a person’s name. “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” won’t leave your employer with a good impression. On the other hand, using a contact’s name is personable and demonstrates that you cared enough to do your research.

Finding a name isn’t always easy. The first place you should check is the source of the job opening. Some job ads include a contact’s name. If you learned about the job through your network, ask that person who will be reviewing applications for the job opening. But most of the time, you’ll need to do some internet sleuthing.

Begin at the company’s website and search for a hiring manager. If there’s no clear contact listed online or the company lists more than one hiring manager, your best shot is to just call the company. Don’t try to call the person you think will be doing the hiring. Instead, call the main line. Explain that you’re applying for this position and that you’d like to know the hiring manager’s name. They should be perfectly willing to help you out.

If none of that works you can always get creative and use something like, “Dear future superior,” or “Hello amazing hiring manager,”. That’ll get their attention!

3. Introduction

When you finally begin your letter, introduce yourself and state the position you’re applying for up front. Most people mention where they heard about the job, and this is especially important to do if you found out through a mutual contact. Being part of someone’s extended network automatically makes you more trustworthy than a general applicant.

Your first paragraph should also have a “hook,” that concept you learned about in elementary school English class. Capture the reader’s attention with information that leaves them wanting to read more. Examples are a time when you successfully did similar work, a skill that’s directly relevant to the job, or a connection to the company or its mission.

4. Body Paragraphs

After your introduction, include two to three body paragraphs dedicated to demonstrating your skills and knowledge of the company. First, paint yourself as a strong candidate for the job. Detail how your strengths would be an asset to the employer. Highlight past achievements by using concrete examples and numbers and feel free to organize this information into a list or bullet point to emphasize it.

The hiring manager might not know who/what ‘Bob’s Burgers’ is, or how that experience would be related to the position listed, so it’s your job to let them know what you learned and why it’s relevant.

Even if your past experience isn’t directly related to the position you’re applying for, you have transferable skills that apply to this job. The cover letter is your chance to explain how all your experience is relevant and makes you an excellent fit.

Either within your skills paragraphs or in the following paragraph, demonstrate your knowledge about the company and job opening. Connect your skills to what you know about the company and their pain points. For example, you might have noticed areas where they struggle and have ideas about how you can help them improve. Being well-informed about the company is an asset and places you ahead of the competition.

5. Conclusion

Before you close, briefly summarize why you’d be a great fit for this job, touching on your letter’s “greatest hits.” End the letter with a polite closing, and avoid saying anything that sounds too demanding or arrogant. Finally, use a formal closing such as “Sincerely” or “Best” when signing off. If you’re submitting a physical letter, leave space for your signature.

A cover letter doesn’t have to be a stressful task. Just follow the standard formula for a clear and professional letter.

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