How to Write a Cover Letter
As anyone who is in the process of seeking a new job knows, making a good first impression on interviewers is of paramount importance. While many people regard writing a cover letter as a mere formality, a way to make resumes look more polished and professional, in reality, this vital document represents a primary opportunity to make an excellent first impression on your prospective employer.
What’s The Purpose Of A Cover Letter?
In order to write a truly effective cover letter, you must first understand why cover letters are used and what your prospective employer hopes to learn about you while reading your cover letter.
First and foremost, your cover letter represents a chance to express yourself, to show your interviewer who you are (whereas your resume focuses on what you know). When your prospective employer reads your cover letter, he or she will be trying to determine:
- Whether or not you’re a good fit for the company’s culture. It’s essential to understand that interviewers are typically presented with at least a dozen candidates who have the required skills and experience needed to do the job. What sets a given candidate apart is therefore his or her personality and how well it will fit with the company’s established workplace culture.
- What your communication skills are like. Resumes are rigidly formatted, with text chopped up into bullet points and short paragraphs, giving applicants little chance to really “speak” with their own voices. When you write a cover letter, on the other hand, you’re free to introduce yourself and to express why you’re passionate about the position that’s being offered. This does more than convey your enthusiasm—it tells your employer how well you can communicate your thoughts and ideas. As communication is an essential skill in almost every workplace, writing an effective cover letter will significantly boost your chances of getting nearly any job.
- Your skills and strengths. For experienced candidates, a cover letter provides an excellent opportunity to highlight a few “core strengths” so that prospective employers know what to focus on primarily when presented with a lengthy list of achievements. For inexperienced candidates, a cover letter can be used to convey valuable qualities that would not be evident from the candidate’s resume alone.
How To Write A Cover Letter: The Top 8 Cover Letter Tips
With the above information in mind, you can begin to shape your cover letter in such a way that it will get you noticed and cast your skills and personality in an honest yet favorable light. When writing your cover letter, be sure to make use of the eight strategies described below:
- Pay special attention to creating a strong opening.
While it’s important to be polite when opening a cover letter, job seekers should make sure to steer clear of generic formal opening lines like, “Please consider me for the position of marketing manager you currently have available,” or, “I am writing to apply for the sales representative position you have advertised.” Instead, try to say something that conveys your enthusiasm for the position in a creative, eye-catching, and good-humored way, then segue directly into discussing your qualifications and accomplishments. Some excellent examples of unique cover letter openers:
- “I want all of your customers to experience the WOW Factor. I have built my entire career on providing exceptional customer service . Your company takes pride in delivering the ultimate customer experience. I would be the perfect hire for your customer service team. Let me tell you more. ”
- “What keeps you up at night as a manager? I’m the person who solves problems, steamline processes, work smarter and save companies money. Streamlined operations which increased employee productivity and improved morale as an Operations Manager. I know I can do the same thing at ManTech Global. Here are just a few ideas of what I would do once in the Role of VP of Operations.”
Each of the above openers manages to be offbeat and engaging while still being completely relevant to the position the candidate is applying for—this is the ideal balance you’ll want to achieve when penning the introduction to your cover letter.
As a final note, do your best to find out exactly who will be reading your resume and address your cover letter to him or her directly rather than using a euphemism like, “To whom it may concern.”
- Never, ever resort to simply repeating your resume.
One of the most common “rookie mistakes” that gets candidates turned down for job interviews is the idea that one can simply take the information contained in one’s resume and rewrite it in paragraph format. When employers see cover letters which are composed solely of recycled content, not only do they tend to get bored and tune out while reading either the cover letter or the resume (no one wants to read the same thing twice, after all), they will usually assume that the candidate has poor problem-solving and creative thinking skills—two flaws which make a candidate unsuitable for almost any position.
While you should mention your core strengths and skills in your cover letter, write the letter in such a way that they play a supporting role; your unique personality and your passion for your field should take center stage.
- Keep your cover letter “value oriented.”
When speaking about the traits and aptitudes that make you unique, be sure to tie them into what you can offer to the organization you wish to work for; doing anything else will risk making you look arrogant. Before listing a quality or skill that you feel is desirable, ask yourself, “How will this benefit the company I’m applying to?” and make sure to write your cover letter in such a way that the value you will be adding to the organization stands out clearly. Here is some excellent insight on how this can be accomplished:
- Over the last10 years, I ‘ve built my career on integrity, excellent leadership and working smarter. I can plan projects in my sleep. I have earned an industry reputation for being an exceptional business strategist , implementing and executing strategies that get the desired results. This is what has earned me three promotions over the last 5 years. I’d love to bring these skills to the Project Manager position at Comet Techechnolgy .
- “After spending 5 years turning around a struggling software company that was rapidly losing revenue and marketshare to a profitable company that has regained marketshare with new products and a sound business plan for growth and profitability.. I would be a perfect fit for the position of Vice President of Business Development and turn your company around. What I want to do next? Put that experience to work developing a business strategy that will result in business growth and increase revenue.”
- Create a list of your top selling points before you begin to write your cover letter.
Once you get past the idea that writing a cover letter has to be a formal and uninspiring chore, you’re likely to have a lot of fun getting creative with it—and while that’s great, it makes it easy to get caught up in the writing process itself and accidentally forgo mentioning one of your key selling points. To prevent this from happening, make a list of your top skills and strengths before you begin writing your cover letter, with notes on why each of them will add value to the company you’re applying to pencilled in as well.
- Remember that (contrary to popular belief) longer isn’t always better.
Once you’ve written the first draft of your cover letter, trim it down so that it fills most of one standard letter-sized page—any longer than this and you risk losing your prospective employer’s interest or causing him or her to rush while reading it (remember, your interviewer has a lot of resumes to read). Do your best to include all of your top selling points in your cover letter, but phrase them in a concise way while using a lot of action-oriented language Here is a list of Action Words you can use in a cover letter .
70 POWERFUL ACTION WORDS
- Learn about company culture and values before penning your cover letter.
As mentioned in the opening section of this article, one of your interviewer’s key priorities when reading your cover letter will be figuring out whether or not you’re a good fit for the company’s existing culture. Naturally, then, you should spend some time researching the organization’s workplace culture before you write your cover letter; doing so will allow you to frame your personality and experiences in the correct context.
To get a solid understanding of a company’s culture, you should:
- Read the company’s website thoroughly. Usually, a company’s website will contain information regarding company values, a “mission statement,” and a history of the company.
- Check out the company executives’ social media pages. You can get a good idea of the overall “tone” and communication style preferred at a company by checking out the LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. pages of prominent members of said organization. Likewise, you shouldn’t be afraid to start up a conversation with these individuals where appropriate—you can both learn more about them as people and showcase your passion and knowledge this way.
- Talk to current (or former) employees about what it’s like to work at the company you’re interested in applying to. No one knows company culture better than the people who work within it day in and day out, so if you can have an honest conversation with a current or former employee about company culture, you’re likely to gain the best insider insight available. Ask about which skills are most relevant, how problems are typically solved, how teams interact, and how employees are held accountable.
- Have your cover letter edited professionally if possible.
While style and substance go a long way toward carrying a cover letter, you still need to make sure that you use correct, effective language. Not only will doing this make you look more professional, it conveys to your employer that you truly care about the position being offered and are willing to go the extra mile to make sure you get considered for it.
For best results, have your cover letter edited professionally; this will ensure an excellent final product and it will save you the time and hassle inherent in mastering grammatical “fine print.”
- If you lack job experience, find a mentor to help you work on your cover letter.
As a final point for those who are new to the job market, remember that it’s important to avoid “going it alone” if you’re not sure how to write an effective cover letter. There’s no substitute for the wisdom that comes from experience, so the best way to avoid making amateur errors is to find a family member, career counsellor, or friend who has been through the cover letter writing process many times. Ideally, find someone who has worked within your industry—he or she will be able to offer you the best guidance on which skills and traits are most desirable within your field.
Being able to write a cover letter that will differentiate you from other job seekers, showcase your skills and experience will grab the attention of hiring manages and land you a job interview.
Robert Moment is The Get Hired Expert and Author who specializes in job interview coaching that help ambitious people get hired for jobs and make more money. Robert is the author of How to Write a Cover Letter: Cover Letter Writing Tips and Examples That Will Land You a Job Interview and How to Ace an Interview: Job Interview Tips You Need to Stand Out and Get Hired for Jobs . Visit www.HowtoInterviewTips.com and sign up for the FREE 7 day e-course, titled, “How to Interview for a Job and Get Hired”.