Writing a cover letter is already tricky business. But writing a cover letter for a government job can be a whole other story. Let's get down to the nitty gritty on how we tailor a cover letter to the key words of a government job.
Don’t apply at the last minute and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to take these steps:
- Carefully read the entire announcement before applying. It seems obvious, but each announcement, even in USAJobs, is different and will have different skills needed for the job. Print a hard copy of the announcement and highlight a checklist to ensure you can address at least 3 out of 5 of the skills they’re asking for. Once you highlight their requirements, it will be easier to go back to your own cover letter to address those points.
- Research the agency to which you are applying. Your cover letter is your fist opportunity to express how your mindset and talent matches with that of the organization. Catch the hiring manager’s eye by demonstrating you’ve done your homework and are familiar with the agency’s mission and some of its current programs.
- Get specific. Explain exactly what experiences you have had that make you a great candidate for the position. Don’t just say “I did x,y,and z.” For government jobs, use numbers, dollar amounts, and specify how many years for as much as you can.
Tailor Your Cover Letter
So what does it mean to tailor your cover letter to the job? It’s not just highlighting your experiences and hoping the hiring manager will see a good fit. You have to connect the dots for them and that means making your skills match the required skills almost word-for-word.
First, compare your resume and the job announcement side by side. Highlight the requirements they’re asking for the job and highlight corresponding skills and experiences you have from your resume. Try doing this process in about 15 to 20 minutes. This will also help you practice for interviews since you will eventually be required to quickly recall your job experiences.
And of course, go over your applications materials in depth to make sure you don’t submit any formatting, grammatical, or punctuation errors.
Here is an example of a post from USAJobs with key words in bold:
The Student Trainee (Contract Specialist) – PATHWAYS Intern is a member of a team responsible for the negotiation, award, and monitoring/administration of Federal assistance agreements (grants and cooperative agreements) and contracts for a wide array of research, non-personnel support services, specialized studies and other activities necessary to support the FHWA Headquarter, FHWA Turner-Fairbanks Highway Research Center, State Division Office, and Resource Center program offices. Under close supervision of the Team Leader, the intern will perform the following functions:
- Assists in pre-award and post-award functions involving a full range of procurement actions, typically involving technical services or programs of research and development, specialized equipment or systems.
- Assists with developing requests for applications (RFA), requests for proposals (RFP), and requests for quotations (RFQ). The intern will help to analyze, evaluate, and negotiate proposals and applications for agency contracting and Federal assistance opportunities.
- Assists with acquisition planning, scheduling procurement from time of acceptance through award.
Here’s an example from my undergraduate resume to match with some of the above points:
- Nonprofit Volunteer Coordinator: Oversaw research and development as well as technical production of building Tunnel on campus and acquirement of specialized equipment systems needed for sound and visual media. Cost of production was over $20,000 and took a total of 9 months to plan.
- University Program Board Director: Developed and negotiated over 50 proposals and contracts with speakers and agencies, scheduled and planned 100 events by coordinating facilities, catering, as well as budget of over $30,000.
You’re not going to have the exact same positions as specified in the job announcement. But chances are you’ve had some academic, volunteer, and/or professional experiences that are applicable. Be sure you’re also not making up your skills just to fit the job requirements. Just adjust words in your resume and cover letter to better fit the job vacancy.
Draft the Cover Letter
Now that you have gone through your resume and highlighted matching examples to the job requirements, it’s time to start writing your cover letter. Choose the three most relevant examples from your resume that you can tailor to the position. This is because a cover letter should be no more than 3-4 paragraphs, so you want to be succinct. Use numbers, years, and any dollar amounts to be as specific as possible.
Here’s an example to start off with relevant points highlighted from the above USAJobs vacancy:
Dear Ms. Smith,
As a recent graduate of (xyx program), I am seeking to apply my 4 years of research, administrative, and event planning to a career in public service. I am interested in the Student Trainee Contract Specialist Position because I want to specialize in negotiation, award, and monitoring of Federal assistance agreements. More importantly, I believe my negotiating, evaluative, and analytical skills all would be highly suitable to the position.
The next two to three paragraphs should each draw on a bulleted example you use from your resume elaborating on how your experiences in the position applies to the job vacancy and how it would help you to grow in the role.
Remember, your cover letter is your opportunity to make a good first impression with the hiring manager. It can determine whether or not the hiring manager will even read your resume. While it is a long and tedious process for a seemingly short letter, it’s important to allot the necessary time and research to make sure that your cover letter keeps the potential employer reading.
For more resources on cover letter writing, be sure to check out these posts:
-How to Tweak Your Cover Letter and Resume for More Impact
-Are You Making These 4 Mistakes in Your Cover Letter?
For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial
Customer Service Representative Cover Letter Sample 1:
With 13 years of proven experience providing customer service for several different companies, I am confident I will make an immediate contribution to your team.
I have demonstrated the ability to effectively handle situations or inquiries while working within policy, procedures and standard processes. You will find I am detail oriented and able to analyze, prioritize and resolve client requests or issues quickly and effectively. I possess excellent communication skills both oral and written.
I have remarkable interpersonal, organizational and time management skills. I am well versed in all the Microsoft Office suite applications. Furthermore, I learn new applications quickly and efficiently. I am able to support team goals along with finishing my assigned tasks which makes me a perfect fit for a multitasking environment such as yours.
This summary, as well as my resume, cannot adequately communicate my qualifications in-depth; I look forward to meeting with you to discuss why I would be an asset to your institution. I am available to schedule an interview at your earliest convenience by phone or email.
Customer Service Representative Cover Letter Sample 2:
I am writing to express my interest in a full time customer service position with your company. I read your job posting that appeared on Indeed. I believe my skills, experience, knowledge, and willpower for sales will make me the best candidate for this position.
As you will note from the enclosed resume, I am presently a part time telemarketer and I have many skills that would aid me as a customer service representative for your company. Here are some of the responsibilities I’ve held over the past six years:
- Experience in selling, promoting ,and advertising products
- Experience in customer relations
- Exceptional verifiable talent for ensuring customer satisfaction
- Using critical selling strategies to exceed productivity goals
- Excellent written and verbal presentation skill
- Experience in training new employees
I am currently in my third year of study at Riverson University and I am working toward my Bachelor’s degree in Public Health and Safety as well as a certificate in Occupational Health and Safety. Being in these programs has given me the opportunity to gain knowledge relative to the position such as verbal speaking skills, writing, and people skills.
I am confident that my education coupled with my relevant experience will allow me to make a substantial contribution to your company. I feel very qualified to fill your customer service position and would like to arrange an interview at your earliest convenience. Please feel free to contact me at or by email at . Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Customer Service Representative Cover Letter Sample 3:
I am writing in regards to the Customer Service Representative position that is open with your company at this time. I am a highly capable professional with over 7 years of customer service experience. My background, along with my ability to learn quickly and efficiently, will enable me to be a valuable part of your team.
My knowledge of computers, which enables me to pick up new systems quickly, work independently, and efficiently make me a perfect fit for your opening. I possess an uncanny ability to build rapport and relationships with internal and external customers via the telephone. These, coupled with my ability to examine a process to look for improvement as well as manage multiple projects simultaneously all are valuable assets that I feel can benefit your company. I can solve problems, quickly and precisely, which has resulted in sales increases in my previous positions.
My business skills, attention to detail, and general aptitude all have served me in my previous endeavors which have shaped me into an excellent administrator. The approach to my work goes beyond the job description as I am always looking for a way to improve results. In addition to my work, I have always been looked to for decision making.
I have enclosed my resume to display my past achievements, as well as to demonstrate how I can be a valuable part of your team.
Customer Service Representative Cover Letter Sample 4:
I am writing you in reference to the customer service representative position at your company. After seeing your ad posted online, I immediately felt compelled to contact you. As someone who has frequented your business over the years, I believe I have a solid understanding of the needs of your customers. Moreover, I believe that my personal qualities align well with what you are seeking in a representative.
I understand that quality customer service is essential to a successful business and I take pride in filling that role. I’ve worked in various customer service roles over the course of my career. Five years ago, I worked as a cashier and sales representative at Target. I enjoyed the frequent contact I had with customers and the role I played in solving their problems. I am currently employed as customer service representative by Comcast, and take pride in finding creative solutions to problems presented by customers. On an average day, I work with over 200 customers, and am able to leave all of them happy with the service they’ve received.
In addition, I possess personal qualities that make me an ideal candidate for this position. I enjoy speaking with people and finding solutions to meet their needs. I am able to remain calm and positive even when those around me are feeling stressed and anxious, and I am usually able to help others remain calm as well. I work well independently and require very little direct supervision to successfully complete my job. Moreover, I am an energetic worker who is able to give as much effort and dedication to my last call of the day as I am to the first.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to consider my application. Because of the reasons outlined above, I believe I am an excellent candidate for this position. I hope that you will agree with me that we would work well together, and I hope to hear from you in the near future to set up an appointment to further discuss my qualifications. I am available during work hours at 555-555-5555 and by email at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you.