The cover letter is usually the first part of your application that a recruiter sees; it’s your first impression and your first chance to prove that you’re the right person for the job.
Since it’s such an essential part of your application, it’s worth doing it right. I will say if you are sending your resume to an agency recruiter most of the time they do not read them, however, corporate recruiters at big companies do a lot of the time.
So, how do you write a cover letter?
To write a cover letter, make sure you research the company where you’re applying, tell them why you’d be an asset to their team, show enthusiasm for the job and the company, and include your contact information. Avoid generic statements, don’t lie about your experience, and keep the letter brief.
A good letter will make the recruiter want to know more about you and bring you in for an interview. You want to present your skills and experience in a compelling way that proves to the reader not just that you want the job but that they should want you to have it.
Let’s discuss how to write a cover letter.
Research Your Target Audience
The most important step to writing a cover letter is to research the company offering the job. Read through the company’s website and social media channels to get a sense of their tone and company culture.
Look at the information in the job description carefully, too, as it can give you hints about the company’s expectations.
If you know anyone at the company, this is a great time to use your network to your advantage. This research aims to find out how you’d fit in with the role you’re applying for and the company in general.
Being a good fit for a position is more than having the right experience on your resume, and a cover letter is a tool you can use to prove you’ll fit all aspects of the job.
In cases where you’ve already been in touch with a recruiter or other company representative about the job, you can reference that relationship sparingly. You don’t want to lean on that connection, however. A cover letter is meant to showcase you and what you can offer, so you should be the main focus.
If you can find the name of the recruiter or hiring manager, though, address the letter to them instead of using a generic “Dear Hiring Manager,” or worse, “To Whom It May Concern.”
Cover Letter Formatting Basics
A cover letter is a formal letter, so you should write it in a professional format. The header for your letter should mention your name and contact information, including your address, phone number, and email address.
Under the heading, put the date you submit the letter, and below that, include the name and contact details of the recipient.
For the body of the letter, include a formal salutation or greeting that uses the hiring manager’s name or title, such as “Dear First Name Last Name” or “Dear Job Title.” Next comes your actual letter, followed by a professional closing. You can’t go wrong with “Sincerely.”
Some job sites may limit your formatting abilities, but make sure to include a salutation and a formal sign-off, even if you’re filling in a text box or sending the letter via email. You don’t want a casual letter to be misread as glib or immature.
Proper formatting also makes your letter easier to read. If the manager has to work to figure out what your letter says, you’ve already lost their attention.
What To Include in a Cover Letter
The meat of the letter should be about you, and why they should talk to you about this position. It should be exciting and unique to stand out from other applicants, but it also needs to be relevant to the job. The best cover letters tell a story about how you would benefit the company.
Make sure you include the following in a cover letter:
Skills and Experience
Your resume may be the place to list all of your job experiences and skills, but your cover letter is where you draw on the specific skills and experiences that would help you perform the job in question.
It’s not possible to fit all the nuance of what you do at work into a single line on your resume, so take some time to highlight the relevant parts of your experience. However, this isn’t just a way to rephrase your resume. It’s a place to draw on specific examples to show how you would benefit your potential employer.
Don’t just say what your skills are; give an example of how you put those skills into action. If you’re applying to a job that asks for a good problem-solver, provide a brief example of when you encountered a workplace problem, and tell the recruiter how you solved it.
You should also specifically mention why you want the job. Employers want people who will be engaged members of their team. Offer an example of why this job excites you and what you hope to accomplish in it.
Enthusiasm for the work can go a long way towards bringing you through to the next stage.
What Not To Include in a Cover Letter
Don’t dwell too much on previous jobs or education. Your cover letter should be forward-looking, not just a re-hashing of your resume.
It also shouldn’t run on for several pages. It should get straight to the point so that the hiring manager can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. The easier you make their job, the more likely you’ll make it off their desk and into the interview line-up.
Don’t include skills you don’t have or experiences you haven’t been through yet. Dishonesty in the first hiring stages will only come back to haunt you later–if the hiring manager doesn’t see right through you from the beginning.
The people making the hiring choices will be experts in their field, and if they spot a faker, your application will be headed straight for the trash.
You also want to avoid generic and cliche language. Recruiters read tons of applications, so if you use the exact phrases as the last twenty applicants, there’s a smaller chance they’ll remember your application even if you’re the perfect candidate.
Phrases like “detail-oriented,” “solutions-oriented,” and “team player” are often overused and don’t add any value to your letter. Your cover letter is brief, so you want every sentence to do as much work for you as possible, and you don’t want to waste page space on phrases that don’t help you.
Cover Letter Proof-Reading & Feedback
Before you send out your letter, give it to a friend or trusted colleague to look over. You want to make sure it is clean free of any spelling or grammar mistakes. It’s also useful to have an outside perspective on it.
Another person can give you feedback on tone and point out any places that sound awkward or don’t quite fit.
The person catching these errors and rooting out awkwardness shouldn’t be the recruiter for the company you’re trying to work for–it should be someone who can tell you while you still have time to edit your letter!
A good cover letter is a way to show a potential employer who you are beyond your resume and entice them into bringing you in for an interview. Your letter should showcase your talents and how they fit into the company you’re applying to, as well as why you want to work for that company.
Above all, a cover letter should show a company that you know who they are and you’re the right person for them.
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