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Why do I need a cover letter?
A cover letter is like a written introduction of you and your interest in a professional position, as well as a brief preface to your resume.
It is essential to send a cover letter with every resume you send, even if it is not specified.
The purpose of the cover letter is to catch the attention of your potential employer. It’s especially important for entry level applicants who have little or no related job experience.
A good tip is to look up the employer’s contact information and make a direct phone call, prior to sending a resume, which can then be referred to in the cover letter. For example:
“As we discussed during our phone conversation, I am interested in the position of medical assistant at this healthcare center.”
Note, some employers may include a “no calls” policy in their help wanted ads. Be sure that phone calls are welcome before calling directly.
Keep in mind to tailor your cover letters to the specific position and company to which you are applying. Employers can tell when an applicant sends them the same cover letter that has been sent to 15 others.
Heading and format
Direct the letter to the appropriate person using his or her formal name.
Rather than “To HR Dept.” or “Dear Sir”, it’s always best to use the title and name of the employer or the person receiving resumes.
Sometimes there is simply not enough information given, but if at all possible, make an effort to find out the name and title of the hiring manager or employer.
Never, ever use emoticons or smiley faces in your greeting or anywhere else in a cover letter. They are simply unprofessional.
Be respectful and formal with the greeting.
If the cover letter is being sent to Dr. Jack Silverman, never begin the greeting with “To Jack,” or “Hi Jack,” or any other title than “Dr. Silverman”.
Include your name, date and email at the top left.
It is the first bit of text on the page, and proper formatting for a cover letter. Each item could be on its own line. Small details like this may seem superfluous, but they can do more than what you’d expect for a good first impression.
Tell the employer why you are sending your resume.
This goes beyond simply stating that you are interested in the position. Express the kind of position you hope to gain, whether full-time employment, an internship, part-time work, and so on.
Do not assume the employer knows what position is being applied for. It’s a good idea to also mention where or how you heard about the position.
Explain why you want to work for a given employer or company.
This may be about a co-worker’s recommendation, a good reputation or work environment, treatment of employees, company values and ethics, or any other characteristics that attract you as an applicant to a particular employer.
Convey familiarity and knowledge about the company and/or employer.
This is an important inclusion in any cover letter, because it goes beyond the qualifications on a resume, and provides additional insight into your professional character.
If you cannot show your interest in the job/employer, how can you expect them to take an interest in you?
For this section, do not just regurgitate a practice’s “About Us” page. Instead, explain how your knowledge of the company relates to your professional goals, work ethics, values, or characteristic similarities.
“The priority of patient care and compassion needed in oncology is one that I have in common with [name of healthcare facility]”.
Know the policies and values of the employer, and discuss how some of these are specifically congruent with yours.
State your main qualifications.
If you have just graduated from an MA program, do not simply leave it at that. Describe how MA program activities prepared you for the position.
Briefly mention any work experience or internships that also provided related professional preparation.
If it is an entry level position and there is little to no related work experience to emphasize, concentrate on achievements: academic accomplishments, high test scores, administrative experience, and so on.
Explain how you can improve or contribute to the workplace.
This is something that can help prepare for interview questions as well. Although this is easier to do with more work experience, even entry level applicants can emphasize contributing professional assets.
Here’s an example:
“By applying efficient multi-tasking and organizational skills, I would help facilitate administrative tasks and improve overall healthcare workflow.”
Remember, every professional position is created to improve, benefit or contribute to the operation of a business, service or practice.
Request an interview
This is best done by offering additional information or answers to questions about your work experience and qualifications. It is not something to be stated flat out.
It would be unprofessional to say “I’d like to schedule an interview”. This is presumptuous; it is for the employer to say to the applicant, not vice versa.
The idea of a cover letter is to give the employer enough reason to want to interview you. So, show, don’t tell.
Again, be formal with your closing. “Talk to you soon,” or even “Best wishes” are too informal, and again, so are emoticons and smiley faces – none of which should ever be used in a cover letter.
Stick with closings like “Regards,” or “Sincerely,” or “Thank you for your time” for a polite and professional close to your cover letter.
Cover letter examples
See below two examples of effective medical assistant cover letters. You are free to use them for reference.
However, as already mentioned above, make sure to tailor your cover letter to the specific employer, otherwise it may cause more harm than good.