I think we can all agree: A trip to the dentist sounds infinitely better than writing a cover letter. If you are one of the .001% of people who (gasp) genuinely enjoy crafting a cover letter, please let us in on your secret.
As you browse the hundreds of cover letter samples posted across the web, you’re most likely questioning why you even have to write one. I mean, do recruiters and hiring managers actually read cover letters? Can’t my resume speak for itself? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but cover letters do get read, and they’re an essential part of your application.
If you rely solely on your resume to do the talking, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Cover letters are an opportunity to showcase who you are, why a prospective employer should hire you, and what makes you different from other candidates applying for the same role. And to be honest, 9 times out of 10, no cover letter translates as you’re not truly invested in the opportunity at hand.
So, how exactly do you bundle all of your greatness into a few hundred words? After all, this is your chance to make a powerful first impression. Read on for some tips on how to make your cover letter stand out from the stack of other applicants.
Contact Info & Salutation
Unless you want a recruiter to go on a scavenger hunt through your cover letter to locate your personal information, make sure you include your name, email, and phone number right at the top of the page. Your cover letter should also address a specific individual at the company. Using “Dear John Smith” in lieu of “To who it may concern” will show the recruiter that you’ve invested time in doing your research. Whether you scour the company’s website, conduct a LinkedIn search, ask a friend that works for the company, or perform a simple Google search, directing your letter to a hiring manager or recruiter will immediately put a couple of points in your basket.
The Introductory Paragraph
Your opening paragraph is your first opportunity to draw the reader in; start with a relevant quote, anecdote, or fun fact to truly make an impact with your opening remark. Make it clear that you’ve done your homework on the company and understand their values, what they do, and any challenges they may be facing. You can even reference any recent news stories or upcoming acquisitions that are related to the position you are applying for.
Transition into how these pieces of information and the company’s values align with your experience, passions, skills, and character. It’s essential to draw a parallel between your skills and the needs of the role, demonstrating your worth and the value you could deliver to the company if awarded the role. Need some inspiration? Check out these attention-grabbing introductions, courtesy of The Muse, to help stir up your creativity.
Lastly, if you were referred to the company by a friend or family member, make sure to name drop them in your opening paragraph. A professional referral is a compelling piece of ammo you should leverage in your favor.
The Body of Your Cover Letter
Your body paragraphs should include measurable accomplishments and specific metrics to illustrate how your work has translated into results. Use this time to explain how you’d apply your skills and experience to this particular role. Hiring managers are looking for candidates who are forward-thinking and have a clear vision of how they see themselves contributing to the success of the company. Make sure to talk about your most recent roles and responsibilities, the skills you’ve acquired, how you’ve grown professionally, and any noteworthy projects you did that made an impact and can highlight your worth as an employee. This section can also be used to mention any awards or recognition you’ve received for your work. Most importantly, as you put this section together, make sure to incorporate specific keywords and language that are used in the job description.
The Closer Paragraph
The closing paragraph is your chance to seal the deal. Emphasize (and don’t repeat) why you’re interested in this role, why your qualifications make you an excellent fit, and reaffirm why you’re passionate about working for the company. Write from the heart. While your cover letter should be clean and professional, you want to inject some personality into your message, so the employer can get a sneak peek of who you are from a cultural perspective. The goal is to paint a compelling picture of who you are as a worker and convince the hiring manager or recruiter why they should invite you into the office for an interview.
Make It a Home Run
Now that you’ve learned the strategic approach to crafting an ideal cover letter – one that’s infused with personality, energy, and vital information about your strengths and accomplishments - it’s time to go over some last minute tips to ensure you set yourself up for success.
- Your cover letter isn’t a party invitation, so ax the intricate fonts or crazy designs. These are merely distracting and divert the reader’s attention away from the message you’re trying to convey. Keep the font consistent with what you are using in your resume.
- Save your cover letter as a PDF rather than a word document so there aren’t any unexpected formatting changes when the employer opens the file.
- Limit your cover letter to one page. Attention spans are short and one page is plenty of room to sell yourself as a valuable candidate.
- Always include hyperlinks to your portfolio, website, or digital samples of your work, if applicable.
- Proofread your work! This is an absolute must. Also, have a trusted friend or family member review your cover letter to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors, which are a major turn-off for recruiters and hiring managers.
- As a general rule of thumb, keep your paragraphs short and digestible. Heavy blocks of text make it harder for the reader to get through.
Searching for a new role is not only highly competitive in nature, but it can be frustrating at times. However, by creating a compelling cover letter, you will greatly improve your chances of standing out among the sea of other resumes that have applied for the same position. There’s no arguing that composing a customized cover letter for each new position you apply for is time-consuming, but by doing so, you are communicating to the hiring manager that you have a genuine interest in the opportunity and have invested the time in personalizing your message to fit the company’s unique needs.
Now that you have the right tools in your pocket, it’s time to get typing.