How do I write a cover letter?

Cover letters are often required when you’re applying for a job. They allow you to explain why you’d be a good fit for the role.

Why do I need a cover letter?

Resumes are meant to give an overview of your work history and education, while cover letters give applicants the opportunity to share more about their experiences and qualifications -- specifically for the role they are applying for.

As a newcomer youth, you may not have a lot of full-time or Canadian professional work experience. However, you can highlight your education, volunteer experience, internships, and part-time work to show why you’re qualified for the role.

Every job you apply for will be different, so it’s important to customize your cover letter according to what the employer is looking for. 

How should I prepare to write a cover letter?

Start by researching the company. Look at their “About Us” section on their website. Sometimes, organizations share reports or post blogs and it’s a good idea to read up on those to get a sense of their work, outputs, and culture. 

After you get a sense of the employer, find out what they’re looking for in a new hire by carefully reading the job description. Highlight qualifications that match your abilities as well as the responsibilities you think you would excel at. This will help you tailor your resume and cover letter.

Finally, list any relevant skills and experience you have that speak to what the company is looking for. You can expand later, but get them all down on paper first so you can reference them when preparing your application. 

What are some tips for drafting a good cover letter?

Include your contact information at the top, either centered in the header or aligned to the left of the page.

Address the letter to a specific person if you can find out who the hiring manager is.

Start your opening paragraph by expressing your interest in the position and company, where you heard about the job, and why you’d be a good fit.

Use key words from the job description and the industry you’re applying to.

Share specific experiences from your academic, professional, and voluntary work that demonstrate your qualifications.

Try to use numbers and concrete achievements as evidence, like how many sales you made, how much online engagement you had, how many clients you served, if you received an accolade, if you oversaw a project from start to finish, etc.

Conclude by asking for an interview and showing confidence in your ability to do the job.

Keep it to one page, with 1” margins and using a common font between 10 and 12 points.

Most important of all, don’t forget to PROOFREAD!

How do I follow-up?

After applying for the job, wait a little while (about a week or two after the application due date) and then email the hiring manager to ask if they’ve had time to review your application and if there’s any additional information you can provide. 

If they don’t respond, don’t take it to heart, some positions get a flood of applications and only reach out to a select few candidates. Keep trying! 

You can follow-up the same way if you get to the interview stage of the application. If they let you know that they weren’t able to offer you the position, you can ask for feedback on the hiring process so you can do better next time. 

More Resources

Cover Letter and Resume Writing Guide - A resource tailored for applicants applying for positions within the Ontario Public Service.

Sample Cover Letter - An example of an application for a Guidance Counselor position by a student at University of Guelph-Humber.

Do’s and Don’ts of Resume and Cover Letters - Tips from Youth Employment Services, Canada’s leader in youth employment.

Best Cover Letters - Cover letter ideas, templates, guides, and several examples from real students at Queen University.