Of all the many parts of finding a new job, people seem to hate writing the cover letter the most. It’s too bad, because, with a few easy steps, this letter can be the difference between getting the interview or not. Cover letters are a great way to show a little personality, explain an employment gap, or explain why you’re the best person for the job.
A Cover Letter is Not the Same as Your Resume
Ideally, a cover letter is designed just for one position. If you’re applying to many jobs and aren’t capable of spending that kind of time on more than one, then your cover letter should encompass the wide amount of skills you want potential employers to notice. You can also use your cover letter as a chance to explain why you’re changing careers, going back into the workforce, and so on.
It’s common for employers to ask for both a resume and a cover letter. Yours should be approximately three paragraphs long and include why you’re applying for this particular position, a brief overview of your professional experience, and why you in particular are the best choice for this job. While cover letters might appear optional, they can make the difference between getting the position or not.
Naturally, you need to have the most up-to-date contact information so they can reach you to arrange an interview.
Let’s start with the essentials:
Start it with addressing the hiring manager by name, if possible. Check the company website if it’s not in the job description. You can also call the company and ask for the hiring manager’s name, after explaining that you’d like to address your cover letter to the right person. If their name is ambiguous, just use their first and last name. If you can’t find their name, use “Dear Hiring Manager”. Avoid “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern”, as both are considered outdated.
Start with introducing yourself and something that will wow them, such as an enthusiastic way to express why you want this job. Avoid anything that sounds like a cliché or formula, but do use keywords from the job posting and match your skills to the requirements of the job. If you were referred to this job by someone, mention it here. Know a mutual connection? Bring that up! Did you notice the company in the news? Mention that!
Dig into your most relevant work history and talk about why your qualifications and skill set make you the best fit. In one or two paragraphs, make a logical connection between your previous accomplishments and your readiness for this new role. This is when your pitch comes in because anyone reading this far has most likely already read your resume, so don’t repeat bullet points. Include details that really show those highlights. You can also clarify anything necessary, like open gaps in employment, or sum up your qualifications for the role and tell them how interested you are in continuing to the next stage.
It also helps to have the line “I’m uniquely qualified to do this position because” to explain why you’re the best fit. Mention any special connections to the company you may have or anything in particular that you like about them. Let them know that you know who they are. Do you like their product? Admire their staff? Let them know!
Here you’re saying ‘thank you for their time, and that you hope to hear from them soon. This doesn’t need to be long to be a great cover letter, just effective.
Choose a complimentary closing, such as Sincerely, Regards, Best, Respectfully, Thank You, or something similar. Avoid anything too casual- not Warm Regards, Cheers, Yours Truly, or anything used on a personal letter. Make sure to handwrite your signature, plus your fully typed name.
Keep the font simple, and around size 10-12. You should use the same font and size in your resume. Keep your cover letter single-spaced and use standard margins and alignments. Save this format in either a word .doc or a PDF. Be sure to save it with a specific name, so the hiring manager will know exactly what it is when sent over. Just using “Cover Letter” is terrible, because you’re not the only person sending a cover letter! Use your first and last name, with the format of First-Name-Last-Name-Cover-Letter.doc so your hard work doesn’t disappear into an email black hole! Example: “Tom Smith Cover Letter”.
You’re all set! Don’t forget to spellcheck before sending it! Good luck!
Is your resume ready? Types of Resumes and When to Use Them (With Examples)
Now, do you know what you’ll wear? Check out our guide on how to Dress for Success!