Though it may be tempting to skip over, a cover letter is an essential part of job hunting. It’s your first introduction to a future employer––so make it shine! Standing out from the crowd takes a little effort and maybe a thesaurus, but it’s worth it. We’ve put together some tips to help you write a great cover letter that will help you land a job you’ll love.
While a resume sums up your skills and experience, a cover letter is your opportunity to demonstrate to employers why you’re the ideal candidate for a specific role. It’s a one-page document that accompanies your resume when applying for a job. A great cover letter will showcase your communication skills and passion for the industry, as well as highlight your strengths and enthusiasm for the position. Ultimately, it should increase your chances of landing an interview.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the details required to create a successful cover letter, fear not! We put together six essential items necessary to make your cover letter stand out from the crowd. When you’re ready to apply for your next dream job, consider the following before you send your application to the hiring manager.
When it comes to formatting your cover letter, picture an actual letter, even if the job application is online. It should include:
· Your name.
· Your contact information at the top of the letter, or directly in the header.
· Email (if your email is firstname.lastname@example.org, it’s probably time to set up a new one––at least for your job hunt.)
Next, address the letter to the name of the hiring person. If you don’t know how to address a cover letter, look back to the job posting to see if a hiring name is available, or search LinkedIn to try and determine a human resources contact. Alternatively, address your job letter to the head of the department you’re applying to. Just try your best to avoid addressing your letter as “Dear Hiring Manager” or worse,“To Whom It May Concern.” These should be a last resort if you’ve come up blank after your research.
The body of your cover letter is an opportunity to bring your resume to life, elaborating on how your experience and accomplishments meet the role’s criteria. Begin by identifying the position you are applying for, as hiring managers may be recruiting for multiple jobs. From there, include the following:
· Describe two or three things you accomplished professionally or, if you’re new to the job market, in a volunteer capacity.
· Include your current or most recent role early on in your letter and highlight what you achieved. It’s best to avoid generalizing and to give concrete examples. For example, if one of the key responsibilities for the position is to manage social media, you could write: “As part of a fundraising committee, I used Twitter and Instagram to generate awareness of our charity run and raised more than $10,000 for the event.”
· If you don’t have direct experience in a particular area, look for transferable skills and highlight those instead. Be sure to include your educational qualifications, especially if they’re specified in the job posting.
Your cover letter is also an opportunity to demonstrate your personality and passion. Ask yourself: why do I want to work at this company? Perhaps it’s a company you dreamed of working at since you were young, or their commitment to the environment aligns with your beliefs. Whatever it is about the role that speaks to you personally, be sure to let that genuinely shine through in your letter.
Is there something outside your professional life that you think is relevant to your job application? Maybe you've been a leader in team sports, or volunteer in a capacity that makes you even more qualified for the position beyond your past work history. Call out additional, but relevant information that helps you stand out as a candidate.
End your cover letter with a call to action. It could be something as simple as, “I have attached my resume for your consideration and look forward to meeting you.” Thank the hiring manager for their time. Finally, sign off your letter with “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or “Best” and your name.
We recommend keeping your cover letter to less than one page. You want to demonstrate your communication skills through the use of concise, clear language.
Polished and professional is the vibe you want to give a potential employer. Here’s a few things to avoid with your cover letter:
· The wrong company name.
· Personal information beyond what is necessary.
· Anything that is not true.
· Word stuffing—ease up on the adjectives.
· Including too much information about past roles (remember, you’re sending your resume as well).
· Negativity—you don’t want people to have a bad first impression.
Before you hit send, proofread. Then proofread it again. First impressions apply not only when you meet potential employers in person or on video, but when you send a cover letter and resume. Mistakes and poorly-formatted cover letters and resumes don’t reflect well on job candidates. Before hitting send, proofreading is a must!
Writing a thoughtful cover letter can be intense and time consuming, so after writing the first draft of your cover letter, walk away from it and give yourself a break. Approaching your draft with fresh eyes will help to find spelling and grammatical errors. Reading it out loud to yourself will also help to find areas where the language doesn’t flow and editing is required. Getting someone else to give your final copy a once-over is also a good idea.
Depending on the job you’re applying for, you’ll want to tailor not just the content, but the style of your cover letter. Prepped has cover letter examples to help you craft traditional, modern, or creative cover letters.
Other articles you might be interested in:
· How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job Description
· Resume 101: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out
The Prepped team is ready to help you get your cover letter just right! We’ve built a library of resources to support you in your job search, and we encourage you to take advantage of our resume and cover letter templates to help you apply the skills you learned here and hopefully score the job you’ve always wanted. Gain access to these resources and more when you sign up for Prepped today.