by Valerie Arendt, MSW, MPP
Should you submit a cover letter when one is not required? The answer is yes. Cover letters are essential to getting an interview. They are a concise way to communicate your value to an organization, and hiring managers do use them to winnow candidates. Your cover letter should tell the employer that you are the perfect match for the position. Do this by using the language from the job description and organizational mission. It is essential to tailor your cover letter to the specific job.
Here are some basics for writing an interview-winning cover letter:
- Salutation: Find out who will be reading your letter. This is essential. If it is easy to find out who will be reviewing applications and you don’t take the time to do this, they probably won’t take the time to read your letter.
- Name of Organization and Position Title: The organization may have multiple openings. Be sure to indicate which position you are applying for.
- Referral Source: If someone in or close to the organization suggested you apply for this job, mention that person in the cover letter. This will let the reader know you have a connection to the organization and will score big points.
- Why do you want to work for them? You need to describe to your reader how the organization’s mission and goals are a good fit for you professionally. This shows them you know about the organization and have done your homework.
- What can you do for their clients/organization? Sell yourself. Let them know how your experience and education is a perfect match for the position and a good fit for the organization. This is where you use the keywords from the job description to really hit it home that you are a candidate worthy of an interview.
Below is a real job description with keywords highlighted. If you have the experience they are looking for, you should invariably use the same language in your cover letter.
Title: Social Worker
Job Details: Responsible for completion of psychosocial assessment of patients and families enrolled in Hospice. Will work as part of a team to address end-of-life needs, some counseling and emphasis on case management. Able to access homes in Moore & Montgomery County service areas. Must be able to take call rotation. Strong organizational skills needed.
After a strong introductory paragraph, the body of your cover letter should be concise and address the two to four most important details from the job description:
My experience and areas of expertise are an excellent match for the requirements stated in your announcement:'
- Hospice Assessments: As a clinician with St. John’s Hospital, I prepared extensive psychosocial assessments and treatment plans for patients.
- End-of-Life Care: I provided counseling and accurate case management to more than 1,000 patients and their families over 7 years as a member of the St. John’s Hospital end-of-life team.
- Home Visits: I made regular home visits to hospice patients in Moore and Montgomery Counties and was responsible for two on-call shifts per month.
Close by stating that your experience and passion make you a perfect fit for the employer. Include the best way for them to contact you for an interview.