When sorting through a plethora of applications and trying to decide who to bring in for an interview, hiring managers look for ways to distinguish one candidate from another. Presenting a polished cover letter and resume that look like they belong together helps a job seeker make the sort of positive impression that gains an edge.
Matching your formatting implicitly demonstrates what type of employee you are. If you can't be bothered to match your fonts and heading, how will your written correspondence look when you represent the company? "Communicate your attention to detail by displaying it in action during the hiring process," says Brett Murphy Hunt, who teaches college courses on professional writing and owns Brett E. Murphy Tutoring & Consulting, Inc.
Pay attention to the following to create a cover letter that complements the resume:
To avoid any confusion, make certain that the information contained here remains consistent between the cover letter and resume. If you state your name as John D. Adams on one, don't change to John Adams or John Douglas Adams on the other. Uniformity aids in establishing your personal brand and assists the employer in finding information on you if performing an online search or browsing through your online portfolio.
Likewise, use the same phone number and email address on both. A hiring manager should not need to guess the best way to contact you.
Sticking with the same font on both documents creates an air of decisiveness. Choose one that's mature and readable – you'll increase the odds of your material coming through clearly in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), and human readers appreciate text that's easy on the eyes.
Also, keep your cover letter's font size in the 10-12 range. Smaller is visually taxing, and larger comes off as trying to fill space.
Modern job seekers, especially ones in creative fields, sometimes choose to use color or shading on their resume. If going such a route, adding the color or shading to the cover letter too enhances the idea that the two documents are a pair. However, such an action must remain in good taste. Using gawdy colors or too many of them can turn your cover letter into a juvenile-looking, hard-to-read mess.
Don't employ tiny margins on your cover letter or resume in an effort squeeze in more information. Leaving an inch all around on both the resume and cover letter (top, bottom, left, right) provides reader-friendly white space. Adjust a bit if necessary to keep each document from spilling onto a second page.
Better yet, edit to tighten up things. A visually appealing one-or-two-page resume accompanied by an attention-grabbing single-page cover letter shows the hiring manager that you are a concise, effective communicator who respects her time.
Seal the deal with cover letter content that's as impressive as your format. Take cues from your resume, but refrain from repeating it.
"It is important NOT to rehash the resume, but instead use the cover letter to bring life and personality to your application," Murphy Hunt says.
She suggests using short, digestible chunks of 3-4 sentences per section and breaking up the middle of the letter with a bullet list of 5-6 of the most important points about you as a professional.
"Visually, hiring managers' eyes will gravitate toward the center of a paper, so put quantifiable achievements and key words here," Murphy Hunt says. "This method can convey you in a concise, 'executive summary' kind of way, boiling down the main points of both the letter and resume and helping you to get noticed by individuals with short attention spans and limited time."
Each document on its own is a valuable piece of marketing material. But when they work together, even greater things can happen!