Ten Tips for Writing a Cover Letter Effectively
September 11, 2019
Ten Tips for Writing a Cover Letter Effectively
Second in importance only to your resumé, the cover letter is an essential document submitted as part of your job applications. In its simplest form, the cover letter is your chance to introduce yourself to a potential employer and make a strong first impression. However, a good cover letter goes beyond a simple introduction and can help you get an interview. This article outlines ten tips for writing a cover letter that you should consider when sitting down to apply to a job that you really want.
1) Make it professional
A cover letter is typically your first opportunity to make a good impression on a hiring manager or the human resources department. Tips for writing a cover letter include ensuring that your cover letter is professional in all aspects, including language (no slang, abbreviations, or undefined acronyms), grammar, tone, and content. Do not try to be funny unless you are applying for a job as a comedy writer. Even if you know the hiring manager, don’t include personal material unless it relates to the job.
2) Do your research
If the firm asks for specific information in the letter, be sure to include that information. If the firm asks that no cover letter be submitted, then do not submit a letter (but this is the only case you shouldn’t submit one!)
Research and understand the position:
- What are the primary responsibilities?
- What types of work will you do on a daily basis?
- What skills will help you succeed?
- Who is typically hired for the position?
- How and where will the work mostly be conducted?
- How does your previous experience align with the job description?
Research the firm:
- What does the firm actually do? What products/services does it offer?
- Does the firm specialize within the industry? How so?
- How is the firm distinct from other firms in the same space?
- What is the firm’s culture? Is it a point of pride or less important?
- What are the firm’s goals?
- Any relevant, recent news?
- What features of their work appeal to you?
When thinking about tips for writing a cover letter, remember: you cannot write a specific, tailored letter unless you put in the research first!
3) Customize your letter
Each cover letter should be tailored to the specific position and company to which you are applying. Specifically mention your skills, knowledge, and experience that match the qualifications listed in the job posting. The widespread use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) means that you have to pass an automated screening process before a hiring manager will even see your resumé and cover letter. To pass this screening, you must match several criteria exactly, so write your letter with the ATS in mind. In addition, where possible, you should address the letter to a specific person (you can look up who is in charge of hiring for the particular position on the company website), and avoid using the greeting “To Whom It May Concern.”
4) Make it unique
One of the most crucial tips for writing a cover letter is to avoid using a form letter or one generic letter that you send to several companies. Write a personalized letter for each job application, explaining why you are a good fit for that specific position at that particular company. You don’t want one company’s name accidentally in a letter to another firm! Sell your unique qualifications in line with each position’s requirements and make sure your letter helps your application stand out.
5) Show, don’t tell
Based on your research, use the cover letter to connect your skills, background, education, and experience to specific job requirements or that demonstrate a match to the firm’s culture or organizational goals. Demonstrate how your past accomplishments will enable you to add value to the organization and help you stand out from all the other applicants. Use quantitative examples where possible so that the hiring team gets a clearer picture of your achievements and results.
6) Be concise
When thinking about tips for writing a cover letter, remember that a cover letter should be concise. This means no longer than one page. Use this opportunity not to tell your life story, but rather to intrigue the reader and entice them to review your resumé in further detail, and even better, invite you for an in-person interview.
7) Don’t just restate your resumé
A smart cover letter will enhance rather than duplicate your LinkedIn or your resumé. It will showcase your most relevant skills and experiences, and expand on a few key points. Use the letter to highlight and expand on information that directly relates to the job you're seeking.
8) Be honest and realistic
You should present your experiences in the most positive way possible, but do not materially misrepresent yourself or your background. When considering tips for writing a cover letter, don’t be tempted to sell yourself with capabilities you don't have. Letters that make extravagant claims like, "There's no task I can't accomplish" are both inflated and untrue.
9) Formatting matters
Done well, a letter’s format will not be noticed. Done poorly, the format could cause your application to be discarded. Use standard conventions regarding margins, font size and style. Margins should be consistent all around and may range from .75 to 1.0 inch. Use a font size between 10 - 12 points, and use the same font that you used on your resumé. Follow standard business letter protocol.
10) Proofread your work!
Ensure that your cover letter and resumé are 100% error free, with no spelling or grammar mistakes. Do not rely solely on autocorrect to catch typos and errors; have several people proofread your cover letter. Create a .pdf version of the document to ensure that formatting errors do not occur when transmitting the document electronically.
When thinking about tips for writing a cover letter, make sure you’ve done your research, uniquely addressed the firm, and strongly backed up your skills with anecdotes of your experiences. If you follow our tips and write a clean, to-the-point letter highlighting your major assets, you might just stand out to hiring teams and start racking up those coveted interviews!