How to Write a Cover Letter for a Human Service Job

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Once you've spotted the position you want, take care with your cover letter.
Once you've spotted the position you want, take care with your cover letter. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The cover letter you send with your resume can be crucial to your chances of landing a job. Managers and human resource executives are usually inundated with applications from job seekers, especially for an advertised post, so you may have only a few seconds to make your case. If your letter doesn’t entice them to read on, it will end up in the reject pile. As a human services professional, you should stress the breadth of your experience in a variety of situations, and explain what you can bring to the hiring organization.

Find out exactly who will be reading your cover letter. You should never send your cover letter and resume “to whom it may concern.” Always identify the relevant person and address the letter to her by name.

Research the position and the organization further before composing your cover letter. You can usually do this by visiting the company's website, or by contacting people you may know who work there. Any preparation or information gathering you can demonstrate in your cover letter shows that you’re serious about the job.

Begin by referencing the position that’s offered in enthusiastic terms. Standard openings such as “I am writing in reference to your ad in the Journal of Human Services” waste valuable space. Try “I was excited to learn that you have an opening in your department for a social worker, as I have admired the work you are doing with substance abuse patients.”

Highlight the experience that you have that is relevant to the position. Your cover letter should not repeat your resume but should add extra information that directly demonstrates the skills you would employ in the job you’re applying for. Outline success stories where you’ve had a quantifiable impact on school attendance or contributed to positive outcomes for mental health patients, for instance.

Keep it short. Three paragraphs of two to three sentences each is fine. Any longer, and the hiring manager won’t read to the end.

End by outlining how you will follow up. For instance, “I would like to contact your office next week to set up a meeting to discuss this opportunity.”

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