As much as everyone hates writing cover letters when applying for jobs, you’ve gotta do it! Yes, even if it doesn’t get read.
I often get the question, do recruiters and managers even read cover letters? I fully admit that I don’t read cover letters. I do read cover letters if I am trying to understand something that doesn’t make sense in a job applicant’s resume. Like for example, I would expect that if they were making a career change that it is being addressed in their cover letter. But that is ME! When I was recruiting, it wasn’t efficient for me – what I needed to see was in a candidate’s resume. Because for the most part…applicants just reiterate their resume in their cover letter (but you shouldn’t).
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On the other hand, there are several recruiters and hiring managers who do take the time to read them, study them, and compare them against other job candidates’ letters in detail. So, to ensure you are well-prepped with a cover letter that will capture their attention, I’ll go through with you exactly how to write a cover letter that will win over the cover letter aficionados.
Your Cover Letter Template, Header, and Formatting Should Match Your Resume
When putting together your cover letter in a word publishing document, ensure that the template and formatting are consistent with your resume.
Apply the same font and font size that is used in your resume. Your cover letter headline (where you have your name and contact information), should follow the same format as your resume.
Use Formal Letter Writing Format
When writing your cover letter, you should use the same format as you would for “formal” letter writing. This means you place a header at the top…also known as a “letterhead” which includes your name and contact information.
You then include the date the letter is written, follow with who the letter is addressed to, and indicate what the letter is regarding.
Open your letter by addressing the intended reader. Research who the recruiter or hiring manager is for the organization and use their name as the addressee. If you already know the name that you should be addressing it to (like if you are applying for an internal promotion), then be sure to address the individual specifically. If you are unsure, look them up on LinkedIn, but be careful because not everyone updates their LinkedIn profile. Some individuals might not even have a LinkedIn profile.
Reference the Job Posting Title and Job ID/ Code in Your Cover Letter
Most job postings will include at the least a job title and will often include a job ID or code. Include those details within your cover letter so it is clear exactly what job it is you are applying for. Be sure to use the job ID a copy has listed not an ID the publishing company (like a job posting board) might have assigned to the job posting on their website.
Include a Statement of Your Interest About the Opportunity
Tailor your statement of interest in a way that demonstrates your excitement to work for the company you are writing to specific to the job you are applying for. In this statement of interest, you should make them feel like they are the only job you are applying for!
Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the organization, their position in their industry, and your understanding of what the position entails.
Describe Your Relevant Competencies
Without duplicating your resume, describe how your relevant competencies make you an ideal candidate for the position. This should closely match the company’s job posting. In one to two sentences explain that you have exactly what they want!
Be authentic and be yourself. For the most part, you wouldn’t include personal interests in your resume; however, if your interests (hobbies, extracurriculars, etc.) tie into the position or industry you are applying for, then include that information in your letter.
Include Any Details the Company Has Requested from You
If a company specifically requests job candidates to include specific information in their cover letter – make sure you do! Think of this as a test, if a company asks you to submit specific things and you don’t follow their instructions, either because you missed reading about it in their job description, or you forgot to include it, they will likely discard your resume. I know some employers will do this not only to gain information to help them screen candidates but also to screen a candidate’s ability to follow instructions.
So, if an employer asks you to include salary range expectations, include them. If they ask you to reference a specific code, get that code in there. If they ask you to submit a portfolio – include your portfolio. By not including the information they have requested, you are only doing a disservice to yourself!
Use Your Cover Letter to Explain Things
If there is something that might raise a red flag to an employer, use your cover letter as an opportunity to explain yourself. If for example you jumped between contract jobs over the last five years, and your resume paints you as a job hopper, explain what you are looking for. If you took time off work to be a full-time mom and are looking to re-enter the workforce, explain that. If you are making a career change, explain that and talk about your transferable skills!
The list goes on…
However, don’t use this as an opportunity to provide information to an employer that they should not ask about during a hiring process. Information about family or marital status, personal health information, information about race or religion, etc.
Length of Letter
Your cover letter should be no more than one page and roughly 3-4 paragraphs. If your cover letter is longer than one page it is likely a ramble or you have tried to regurgitate your resume in letter form. Let your resume speak for itself and ensure this is just the icing on the cake! Short, concise, and engaging!
Review Your Letter for Errors and Content
You don’t want to spend precious time writing a killer cover letter only to submit it loaded with grammatical and spelling errors. Take the time to run your cover letter (and resume) through a program like Grammarly that will help you catch them before it’s too late! Also, Grammarly has an amazing program that helps you write “better”. Your written communication will come across as more polished with their suggestions – they give you more than just corrections.
It’s also a great idea to have a second set of eyes review your letter for grammar, format, and most importantly content. Send it over to a friend and have them review it before using your letter to apply – especially if it’s your dream job at your dream company! You don’t want to miss that one shot!
Be Wise with Your Writing Style – Choose Your Tone Wisely
I said it above and I’ll say it again, be authentic and be yourself. There is nothing worse than when a recruiter or hiring manager picks up a cover letter to read it and it’s just a spew of big words that when thrown together really don’t mean anything – this may backfire on you. Demonstrate your ability to be an effective communicator. Write in clear and simple language. I’ve have to say, sometimes when people try to sound “professional”, they end up with a letter that sounds…well, boring.
Follow the tone that has been set by the company by reviewing the company’s website and job posting. You can usually get some insight, especially from the job post, if the company is “trendy”, very formal, quirky, etc. If their job description has been written with a fun and funny tone, add some whit to your letter. Use their writing style to help guide you in how you should write your letter. Always set your writing tone to match theirs.
Writing an Epic Cover Letter That Stands Out Wrap Up
Alright so to summarize how exactly you should write an epic cover letter, one that is going to win over the cover letter “readers”, start by using a template that matches your resume and follows formal letter writing format. Although you are using a cover letter template, you are going to create a new letter targeted to each job that you are applying for. Your letter is going to demonstrate your excitement about the opportunity, your knowledge of the company and industry. Most importantly it will depict your understanding of the role expectations and you will show the connection between your experience and their needs by QUICKLY describing your competencies. Answer or provide attachments that they have requested in the job description (salary expectations, etc.), run that tailored letter through a platform like Grammarly to help you identify writing errors. And most importantly ensure that the tone that you have used to write your letter matches the writing style of the job description. Do all of this and you will have an epic cover letter converting all those cover letter aficionados.
Best of luck in your job search!