If you're like most job seekers, you're not taking advantage of one of the best ways to get a hiring manager's attention: writing a great cover letter.
Cover letters can be what gets you pulled out of a stack of applications and called for an interview. They can make the difference between hearing nothing from an employer and eventually getting offered a job.
Cover letters are crucial to hiring managers who understand that people are more than just their work experience -- that people have personalities, motivations, habits and other reasons they'd be great at a particular job that aren't easily seen from a résumé. After all, if this weren't true, employers wouldn't even need to bother to interview candidates; they could just screen résumés, verify that candidates' experience and accomplishments were accurate and then hire the person with the best résumé.
But that's not how it works, and so when done well, a cover letter takes a first step at explaining that additional piece of what you're all about.
Here's how to write a compelling cover letter that will get you interviews.
1. Show personal interest in the particular job that you're applying for. A strong cover letter will make a convincing case that you're truly excited about the opportunity (without resorting to generic reasons that you could use when writing to every other company too). What grabbed you about the job description or the company? Why would you prefer this job over others out there? Why do you think you'd be great at it? What in your background demonstrates that you'd excel at the work?
2. Don't summarize your résumé. Too often, job seekers simply summarize the contents of their résumé in their cover letter. With such limited initial contact, you do yourself a disservice if you use a whole page of your application to simply repeat the contents of the other pages. The cover letter should add something new to your candidacy -- information that doesn't belong on your résumé like personal traits, work habits, why you're interested in the job, maybe even a reference to feedback from a previous manager. Speaking of which ...
3. If something makes you especially well-suited for the job aside from what's on your résumé, mention it. For example, maybe the position requires an inordinate degree of meticulousness and you frequently get teased for being obsessive about details. That's a perfect thing to mention in a cover letter, and it's information that wouldn't be found on your résumé. If you're having trouble thinking of those qualities, try thinking about what you would tell a friend if you were explaining why you were excited about this particular job and why you think you would be great at it. Does that explanation add anything that your friend couldn't get from just looking at your résumé? It probably does -- and that's what you want to convey.
4. Stay away from hyperbole. Statements like "I'm the best candidate for the job" and "You won't find a candidate better qualified than me" come across as naive. You have no way of knowing what the rest of the candidate pool looks like, and only the hiring manager is equipped to assess your candidacy against that pool. Keep the focus on why you'd excel at the job without trying to put down your competition. Your cover letter shouldn't sound like an infomercial.
5. If you know you're overqualified but you don't mind, explain that in your cover letter. If you don't address it up front, many hiring managers will assume that you wouldn't be enthusiastic about the job without ever giving you a chance to tell them why you're interested anyway.
6. Be conversational. Job seekers sometimes feel that a cover letter should be as formal as possible, but the best cover letters are written in a conversational, engaging tone. Of course, don't be overly casual; don't use slang, and pay careful attention to things like grammar and spelling. But your tone and the language should be conversational, warm and engaging.
7. In case it's not obvious from the above, don't use a form letter. Hiring managers can tell the difference between a letter that you're sending with all your applications and a letter that you wrote specifically for this job. If your letter works for all the jobs you're applying to, that's a sign that it needs to be more customized.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.
There are different opinions on what a Cover Letter should look like. How long are you supposed to spend on perfecting it? Do recruiters read it? Can you send only your resume and hope that is enough?
First off, a cover letter is a very quick way to introduce yourself to a recruiter and it gives them a taste of you and your capabilities. Over the course of this article, we are going to talk about the things you need to know to tailor your cover letter to the job you are applying for.
When it comes to writing a good cover letter for a job, it is usually the little things matter. Remember, it is the first impressions that count. It is usually a good idea to make sure yours is as perfect as it can possibly be. If your cover letter is not well written, it is just as useful as not applying at all. The fact that your cover letter is your first opportunity to show your communication skill and your proficiency in your field, it is extremely important that you make it as business appropriate as possible.
What you will learn
This article will show you:
- How to write a cover letter
- Things to look out for when writing a cover letter
- Pitfalls to avoid
- Cover letter format
- Phrases to avoid
- Details to avoid
- Top 8 tips for writing a cover letter
- Common mistakes job seekers make in writing cover letters
Cover Letter Format
The first most important question to ask yourself is, “How long should my cover letter be?”
In truth, best practice is to restrict your cover letter between 3 – 5 paragraphs and just one page. The content of the cover letter should be informative without being long and tiring. Every single paragraph must address a specific point.
Don’t forget that the recruiter is going to be going through hundreds of cover letters so make yours brief but straight to the point. Make it interesting enough that they would be interested in learning more about you.
Let’s go through the standard cover letter format:
- Start with your personal contact information. Your future employer would be able to contact you with these details if he/she is interested in hiring you.
- Add the date and the company’s contact information. Endeavour to separate each section with a space. This improves legibility and helps making the cover letter easy to read.
Below is an awesome Cover Letter Format you can use:
Dear Mr./Mrs. Last name,
Paragraph 1: Since this is your first paragraph, you should make sure it is strong and piques your reader’s interest. Define your purpose for writing. Describe the position you are applying for and mention the position and title of the job you want.
Paragraph 2: This is usually the main body of the cover letter. In this paragraph, you introduce yourself and let your future employer know why you are the best person for the job you are applying for. This is your chance to let them know what you are offering and why your skill and expertise is perfect for the position. Do not forget to launch an extensive research on the company and the position.
Paragraph 3-4: These paragraphs are used to talk about the concerns any prospective employer might have with regards to your ability to do the job. You can also talk about your accomplishments, success stories and more. Feel free to add any information that would give you an edge over other job applicant
Final Paragraph: This is where you wrap up the letter. Ensure that you thank them for considering you for the job and that they should not hesitate to reach out to you if they have any questions or any concerns that were not addressed in the cover letter.
Points to note:
- It is good practice to address your cover letter to a specific person. Since this information isn’t always available, you can address it using “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiter”
- Never use “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” as they are old fashioned and can be offending to some recruiters
- It is sometimes possible to leave out the opening salutation and just start with a subject line. This is not advisable though. A good idea would be to make an effort to find out whom to address it to. It gives the letter a much more personal feel and shows your dedication to that job position
Top 8 Tips & Hacks for Writing a Cover Letter for Job Application
- Your cover letter should not be longer than a single page. Make sure you keep it clean and concise and avoid the use of flowery words
- Make sure the reader of the cover letter knows exactly what you are capable of in terms of your job experience and capability
- Do not try to be vague or generic. Ensure that your cover letter is targeted to the job you are applying for. Do your research before applying.
- Address your cover letter to the right person. Do your research to find out the name of the recruiter. If you cannot find the person’s name, address it to “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear Recruiter”. Do not use “Dear Sir/Ma”
- The easiest way to get your cover letter in the trash is to write a cover letter full of errors. Take time out to go through your letter to avoid spelling and grammar errors.
- Pay attention to the words and phrases used in the job postings. Make sure your cover letter echoes those words and phrases but avoid keyword stuffing.
- Maintain a professional tone in your cover letter. Introduce yourself and stay away from details that are unrelated to the job. It is also a very bad idea to speak badly of previous employments.
- Follow up your cover letter to show dedication. If you do not reach out to the recruiter, you stand a chance of being forgotten.
Common Mistakes Job Seekers Make in Writing Cover Letters.
- Proofread: This goes without saying. No matter how many cover letters you have written, you still need to proofread. If you are truly serious about the job you are applying for, you need to go through your letter to make sure you have corrected the grammar and punctuation errors in them.
- Do not lie about your past experiences. You are allowed to brag a little provided it is true. When you have to lie about what you can do, you would end up not being able to complete the tasks given to you. This would leave to a very frustrated work experience.
- Do not mention your salary requirements yet. That is supposed to be saved for the interview.
- Avoid getting personal with your cover letter. Keep it professional. There is absolutely no reason why you should start talking about your family members or things like that.
Download Some Cover Letter Samples here
We believe this article has helped in no small measure to help you understand all it takes to write a cover letter good enough to land you a job. Just to highlight some of the points we went through in the body of this article, to write a good cover letter…
- Adhere to the format
- Avoid old fashion salutations
- Try as much as you can to address your cover letter to a specific person
- Avoid spelling and grammatical errors
- Don’t include unnecessary details that are related to the job
- Spend quality time researching the company you are writing the cover letter to
- Avoid lies and exaggerated claims as they might come back to haunt you
- Avoid mentioning salary expectations and financial negotiation
- Keep it simple and professional
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