There’s no way around writing your cover letter, so get good at it. No, really, even if an employer does not ask for a cover letter, write one. It is as necessary as your resumé itself for a variety of reasons.
Every employer knows you have your resumé saved on your computer – it can be shot off in a short email as quickly as it takes to order a pizza. A cover letter not just shows you spent time on applying, but is a chance to actually explain how your experience can benefit a company.
So let’s get to it.
You will always wind up with the best final product by starting from scratch, as opposed to sending or simply modifying a generic cover letter.
Templates can curse you in a variety of ways, primarily in that a good hiring manager can tell if you’re using one in seconds. Put in the elbow grease to draw connections between your experience and the desired job in concrete ways on your cover letter and it will be noticed.
Try your best to find who will be hiring to address the cover letter to. Call the company’s HR or reception, do a little research on Linkedin. If you still aren’t sure, address it, “dear hiring manager,” or “to whom it may concern.”
If you are using a header on your resumé with your contact info, replicate that at the top of the cover letter. Below that, add the recipient’s name and position, the name of the business and the business address. If you’re sending it by e-mail, you can also include their e-mail address.
It might look something like this:
Keep it short. Your cover letter must fit on one page. No more. Hard stop.
Your potential employer could be looking at quite a few of these. Your resume should focus on the most relevant experience and skills in a condensed way. You’ll put emphasis on those things that aren’t well represented on your resumé, and also make reference to the resumé to encourage the reader to dig deeper into your application.
Great business writing isn’t easy and requires practice, but anybody can do it with proper attention. In general, rely on the mantra of “less is more.” Business writing is an art, but it certainly isn’t poetry. Check yourself for too many adjectives, or decorative writing. This guide from Monster is an excellent crash course in this kind of writing.
In your first paragraph, express what job you’re applying for and give a simple reason why. If you are applying through recommendation of somebody you know at the company, mention them here, if you haven’t already done so in your e-mail. (Speaking of e-mails, that’s not the place for your cover letter. Attach the cover letter as a PDF and reference it and the resumé with a couple quick lines in the body of your e-mail.)
Your body paragraphs follow. Write two to four of these, laying out your most relevant experience and skills, and find something to add that is not expressed elsewhere on your resumé. This is a place to expand on your resumé, not reiterate it.
If you’re having trouble, try to think of a story that demonstrates some success at a job. Did you move up from a lower position by showing commitment and work ethic? Were you recognized with any rewards? Did you increase sales? A cover letter is a good place to talk about your career highlights.
You should touch upon your formal training at one point if it was recent enough to be relevant. If you are a recent graduate, talk about any aspects of your schooling that might not be apparent on your resumé, such as internships or any projects that simulated what you will be doing on the job.
Also discuss how your most recent job experience bridges into your prospective new one. This will show how your work is a growing and learning process, not just something to fill your day.
Wrap it up by saying you look forward to having the opportunity to speak further about your qualifications.
No you’re not. Find somebody to proofread your cover letter. They don’t need to be experts in your field or in business writing, they are simply looking for the simple mistakes you can’t see yourself – glaring spelling errors, double words, missing periods and the like.
Re-read it yourself as well. If you are sending the cover letter in an email, give it a close read too. Everything being sent to a potential employer should be considered part of the application. Make it as tidy as your resumé.
We would be more than happy to tackle your cover letter for you as well. Check out our writing services here.