What type of structure do you use when writing a cover letter to a potential employer?

4 Answers
I always start out with a short anecdote to pull in the person reading instead of the standard "Hi, I'm ____ from ____ University and am interested in ____ position." I've found that starting with a story that connects you to the position is much more impactful. Then in the second paragraph I will talk about the company's values and why I connect with them. In the next paragraph I pick one specific experience or project that aligns with the position and use it to talk about why I'm a good fit. And then finish out the letter asking if there is any additional information that they need.
I state who I am, my degrees, the job I am interested, my relevant work experience, and end with why I want to work for that company. You can show your qualifications but also show that you know a lot about the company and actually did research into it.
When you write a cover letter, you want it to be short and sweet, like a resume, but to also tell a story. It is your chance to give a little more insight into who you are as a person. Most employers want candidates who can articulate their thoughts well, and a cover letter is your chance to do so. Keep the paragraphs short, and keep the whole letter to one page. Try your best to avoid the "to whom it may concern" intro. You want it to be personal! In the first paragraph state what position it is that you are applying for. Include a sentence that mentions how after reading the qualifications (state a few them), you feel that you would be a strong candidate. Then go into one or two paragraphs that state the specifics of your experience. This is your chance to tell a story to the employer and to give them a little more than just the one sentence on the resume. In the last paragraph make sure to state what you can do for the company. They know you want to work there, but why should they hire you over someone else?
This is a general overview of structure, but don't be afraid to get a little creative so as to set yourself apart. NPR has a nice little write-up about what they look for in a cover letter.
The first paragraph should state what position you are applying for and how you found it. It should also state where you went to school. The second paragraph should be an explanation and extension of your resume. Expand on the positions you held and your achievements. The third and last paragraph should be a closing of two to three sentences asking them to contact you and that you are interested in the position.

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