What do you think of cover letters? Do you think that it's time to do away with them?
Think again. A cover letter is a great opportunity to showcase your personality, fill in the blanks about your employment, and provide context to your professional history.
You've probably heard that most recruiters don't read cover letters any more. And that's true, some don't. But those that do read cover letters care about the contents. While it's possible that a recruiter won't read your cover letter, it's equally possible that you will get a recruiter who reads and cares about your cover letter.
Why avoid writing and risk missing out on a great opportunity? Just bite the bullet and write a solid cover letter.
Sure, writing a cover letter isn't much fun. But with these cover letter writing tips, it sure will be easier.
7 Cover Letter Writing Tips
1. Consider using cover letter examples first
Haven't written a cover letter in awhile? Consider viewing cover letter examples first. First, find cover letter examples for the job that you want. If you can't find cover letter examples for your specific job, then find the closest one possible. Next, read the cover letter example. If it's helpful, jot down your observations. What do you like about the introduction? Which skills did this jobseeker focus on?
If you'd rather skip the examples, then head straight to the rest of our cover letter tips.
2. Research the company and learn their needs, values, and overall mission
Before you even start typing, read about the company. Check out their webpage, the job posting, and their social media pages. Next, see what people have written about them.
As you research, take note of the organizations needs, values, and their overall mission. When it's time for you to start writing your cover letter, try to address these running themes. In other words, prove to your future reader that you researched the company. As you'll see, this and the rest of our cover letter tips ask you to think about what the company needs, not you.
3. Get in the right frame of mind: what can you do for the company?
Many cover letters make a big mistake: they create cover letters that explain why getting the job would benefit them instead of the employer.
As you'll learn from all of our cover letter tips, the cover letter must focus on the company, not you. Your reader won't care about how the job will help you develop as a worker. Instead, they want to know what you can do for them. So, tell your potential boss how you can help the organization reach its goals.
4. Show enthusiasm for the job
Don't play hard to get. A cover letter is a not a 90's teen comedy. Show enthusiasm for the job as you write your cover letter.
Simple lines, such as "I was excited to learn about this opening," offer an easy way to convey your feelings. You can also talk up the company and describe the great things that you have heard.
5. Closing Paragraph
End your letter by reminding employers why you're the best person for the job.
In your last paragraph, return to your argument: you are the best person for the job. Briefly restate your argument. What do we mean by "briefly"? Try to keep it under two sentences.
Next, thank your readers for their time and consideration. Then, state that you are interested in the position and would like the opportunity to participate in an interview to learn more.
Sign off with a formal closing, such as "Sincerely" or "Respectfully yours."
6. Cut the fluff
Many jobseekers worry about the length of their cover letters. Shift your focus. Instead of trying to write a certain number of words, consider how you're using your words instead.
According to Alison Green of the celebrated blog Ask a Manager, the perfect length of a cover letter is "the amount of space that it takes to explain why you're an unusually strong candidate for the job aside from what's on your resume." She also notes that your cover letter shouldn't pass one page in length.
Once you've finished writing your cover letter, reread it and see if it does effectively argue that you're the ideal candidate. Delete sentences and statements that don't enhance your argument. See what you have left after this exercise.
7. Edit your cover letter thoroughly
Our final cover letter tip is about editing your document. Unlike the previous point that instructed you to remove fluff from your cover this, this cover letter tip is all about catching grammatical and factual errors that could ruin your chance to get an interview.
Start by reading your cover letter out loud. Delete things that don't make sense. It's easier to catch mistakes when you read aloud. Some recruiters could forgive you for writing "making manager" instead of "marketing manager," but some would toss your letter into the reject pile immediately. Use proper spelling and grammar. You don't know who will read your letter.
As you're reading out loud, delete phrases and statements that don't sound like something that you would actually say. Let your voice shine!
Next, check for consistency in your story. Do the facts in your cover letter line up with those in your resume? Don't give your reader a reason not to trust you.
Common Cover Letter Writing Questions
Can a cover letter be more than one page?
Many jobseekers wonder if a cover letter can be more than one page. The answer is no. While you should use your cover letter to illuminate elements of your resume rather than repeat them, you should be able to do so in a few paragraphs.
Are electronic cover letters longer than traditional paper cover letters?
Electronic cover letters are no longer than traditional paper cover letters. An electronic cover letter should come out to one page total, just like a traditional paper cover letter, and it should contain all the same parts that a traditional cover letter contains.
What Should Be Said in a Cover Letter?
There are five main sections in a well-written cover letter:
1. Personalized salutation. True or false: opening your cover letter with a classic salutation like "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom it May Concern" demonstrates respect. False! In fact, these outdated openings make you look out of touch and perhaps lazy.
Address your cover letter to the hiring manager. (Remember when we said that our cover letter tips largely tell you to focus on the company?) Take a tip from Nancy Drew and start sleuthing to find the name of the hiring manager. Start by looking at the job post. Next, peruse the company's website and LinkedIn page to see if you can find that name. You can even call the organization and ask to learn more about the role. If you exhaust the internet to no avail, then address your letter to the company, such as "Dear Proctor and Gamble." What's the bottom line here? You want to show that you didn't write a generic cover letter. Instead, you wrote a targeted cover letter to a specific organization for a particular role.
2. Opening paragraph. Here, introduce yourself and offer your elevator pitch. This section of your cover letter should discuss why you are interested in the role to which you are applying, and what appeals to you about the company.
3. Second "hook" paragraph. The second paragraph of the cover letter should entice the reader to learn more about you, so avoid dull opening statements. We're talking about phrases like, "I am writing to apply to the junior sales role at Shawnee and Sheila's Beauty Products." Yawn.
Go for an engaging opener that demands attention. If possible, tell a story that explains why you want this job or why you're perfect for the role. Now, let's try that opening again. "One year ago, I beat my quarterly sales goal by 150%. Ever since then, I've been eager to beat my new sales goals by 200%. It would be an honor to reach this milestone at Shawnee and Shelia's Beauty Products." Notice the difference? The second opening is engaging. It also conveys interest and begins and argument for the writer's worth.
4. Body paragraphs. In this section, argue why you're the best person for the job. Arguing why you're the best person for the job shouldn't end with your opening. Instead, you must use the body paragraphs of your cover letter to continue and strengthen your argument. Read the job post. What does the employer need? Address this directly in your cover letter. It's acceptable to use statements that refer directly to the job description, like, "You need a marketing manager who feels comfortable multitasking. I can do that, and more." We're halfway through our cover letter tips, so keep reading!
5. Use data to back up your claims. In the body of your cover letter, use metrics to emphasize the impact your work has had on your company. Collect evidence that suggests that you're a good worker. Turn this into numbers.
How? Simple! List things that you did at your job and consider the numbers behind your accomplishments and duties. If you managed others, then state how many people you managed. Perhaps you worked on a lot of projects. Reveal how many you did. If you improved anything and you can measure it with a number, then include that information.