Writing a Great Cover Letter

Writing a Great Cover Letter

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A cover letter is your chance to sell yourself as a candidate. What can you do for the company? Why should they hire you instead of someone else? How is your skill set going to be utilized in their open position?

Many job-seekers have struggled to write cover letters because they don’t know where to start or what information they need to include. The best way to impress potential employers is by writing a great cover letter highlighting what makes you uniquely qualified for the job. Focus on those key selling points and use concrete examples whenever possible.

The difference between a resume and a cover letter

A cover letter is a chance to sell yourself, but it has a few key differences from a resume. For some job applications, a cover letter isn’t required, but for those where one is, this valuable document could be the difference between being scheduled for an interview and facing rejection.

While a resume is great for listing the dates of your previous work history that are essential for the hiring decision, a cover letter helps express how your background will benefit the job-specific responsibilities you’ll be tasked with.

“About 53 percent of employers feel a resume alone is not enough to get noticed, while 49 percent of HR managers said that including a cover letter is the second-best way to call attention to your resume…” – Lisa Tynan, Top Resume

Write an effective cover letter to help get your resume noticed by including these key topic areas:

  • A summary of your qualifications and how they are relevant to the position you’re applying for
  • An explanation as to why you want the position and an example or anecdote that demonstrates this desire
  • How you can add value to an organization by filling their open role

Make a unique cover letter for each job application

When applying for a job, you should put together a cover letter that’s tailored to the position and shows that you are familiar with the company and their values.

To make sure your cover letter stands out, consider these tips:

  • Research each company before writing a cover letter. This can be done through Google search or simply by visiting their LinkedIn company page to better understand the people who work there.
  • Use keywords found in the job description when describing yourself and what value you can bring to the position and company. Doing so will help ensure that your application passes automatic filters used by employers’ software programs when sorting through submissions from potential candidates.
  • Include specific details about projects or experiences where applicable; these show employers how much work experience they have without making references seem generic.

Address the appropriate contact personnel

The next step is ensuring you have the correct address and contact information, including the right person’s name. You should also use the correct honorifics and titles when addressing your letter; if someone has a PhD or MD, you should refer to them by that title. If you don’t know their full name, some research will help you find it. If however, you can’t find an exact name, start with “To Whom It May Concern” so they know where your letter is directed.

Keep it short

Save your reader’s time by avoiding long-winded descriptions of your previous work experiences. Instead, consider this an opportunity to focus on the skills and attributes that make you a good fit for the position. Be specific with what they’re looking for in their job post and highlight those qualities.

A cover letter should never be longer than one page unless otherwise indicated by the hiring manager or your recruiter. Having a concise and well-organized cover letter that is easy to read and digestible will better complement the information gained by your resume.

Set the tone

When laying the groundwork within your cover letter, set a professional tone so that hiring managers take your application seriously. Using formal language, correct spelling, and reviewing for typos and grammatical errors lays a great foundation for each section you add. In a cover letter, you should…

  • Be yourself.
  • Be honest and polite, but firm.
  • Be specific about what you want.
  • Avoid empty flattery or promises.

Harvard Business Review’s Amy Gallo encourages job seekers to set the tone in a cover letter by “putting yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager.” With this in mind, focus on what a potential employer really wants to hear from you. It’s also worth your effort to have someone else proofread your cover letter for a different perspective and feedback on how it sounds.

Understand formatting value

Your cover letter’s formatting is relevant because it may go through screening before reaching an actual person. Make sure your document can be scanned by AI processes and the eyes of hiring managers by using a template or format that is well-designed and professional. To do this, you can:

  • Categorize sections using headings (and subheadings, if necessary).
  • Use line breaks throughout the text to break up long paragraphs into easier-to-read chunks.
  • Make the most of white space so that your cover letter is aesthetically pleasing without feeling crammed with text.

Remember the purpose of a cover letter

The most important thing for you to remember is that your cover letter is not just a secondary document. It’s often the first impression an employer gets of you and your candidacy for their position, so it needs to be crafted carefully. Make sure to highlight why they should hire you over other candidates and how appreciative you are for the opportunity to be considered for the role.

For more resources to help strengthen your chances of getting hired, check out some of our other posts on writing a resume, prepping for an interview, and using a recruiter for your job search.

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