Love ‘em or hate ‘em, cover letters can play a big role in landing job interviews. Hiring managers sort through hundreds of resumes, so cover letters are your opportunity to stand out from the pack (or should we say pile).
Writing cover letters is easier said than done for many people. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details and overthink things. To make it easier the next time you have to hammer out one, we’ve put together 10 tips for writing the perfect cover letter.
10. Personalize letters. As tempting as it might be to use a previously used cover letter and change words here and there, DON’T. Tailor each cover letter you write to the job and company you are applying to. Plus, if you “reuse” cover letters, you run the risk of leaving info in that doesn’t relate to the job you are applying to. Oops.
9. Address someone specific. “To whom it may concern” doesn’t cut it. Not only is this an impersonal greeting, it shows you didn’t take the time to learn about the company. Addressing your cover letter to a specific person or department can go a long way in making a good first impression.
8. Stick to the job description. Writing cover letters can be tricky. You need to make yourself stand out in a limited amount of space. That can be nerve wracking. When in doubt, write a cover letter based on the job description. That way, you at the very least highlight how you fit the qualifications and requirements for the position.
7. Don’t get too wordy. It’s important to detailed, but don’t get too long-winded. A good rule-of-thumb is to use about three-fourths of a page for a cover letter. Remember, hiring managers sift through a lot cover letters, so stay on point
and don’t bore them with unnecessary blathering. The last thing you want to do is put them to sleep.
6. Check grammar/punctuation. Last thing you want is to get your “its” or “it’s” mixed up. Grammar- and spell-check can only do so much, and shouldn’t be relied on. Look over your cover letter with a fine-toothed comb. Have another pair of eyes or two read it as well. Poor grammar can totally undermine what you are writing. And this remember, always use complete sentences.
5. Explain resume gaps. Is something included on your resume that might raise questions, such as a gap in employment or an abrupt change in careers? Use your cover letter to answer those questions. For example, you left a job to go back to school and enhance your development skills, or your spouse got a job in another city. Focus on the positives.
4. Add a signature. If possible, pen your signature at the end of your cover letter. It takes only seconds and adds a personal touch. Small steps such as that can help your cover letter make a good impression. So there’s another reason to follow that “three-fourths of the page” suggestion.
3. Avoid using “I” statements. Try not to use phrases such as “I think,” “I believe,” or “I’m convinced.” A cover letter isn’t about you; it’s about how you meet a company’s needs. “I” statements also can make you come across as too self-centered or egotistical. Nobody wants to work with someone with those qualities.
2. Tell a story. Want to really stand out? Share a story that illustrates your knowledge and skills, especially the ones needed for the position you are applying for. Even better, use an example of how you used those skills to resolve an issue, save money, increase profits, etc. in that story. Who doesn’t like proven results?
1. Be enthusiastic. Show why you want the job, why you want to work for that company, and why you are the perfect fit. Be passionate. Highlight one or two skills that will help the company the most. (You can save the rest of your amazing skill set for the interview).
Not to get all mushy, but think of a cover letter as a love letter. You are writing someone to let them know how you feel about them — and trying to convince them to pick YOU. As with love letters, it’s crucial to be sincere when writing cover letters. Be yourself.
What are your winning cover letter-writing strategies? Share them below.