First off, why bother writing a cover letter when the resume is most needed by companies? Because having a good cover letter will make you stand out in a sea of just resumes.
Cover letters are often misunderstood to be just an essay version of your resume, but it is far from it. Your cover letter is your opportunity to make a first impression based on your personality to the hiring manager. Here are 7 things to know when writing your winning cover letter.
1. Address to a person who works in the company
The first mistake made by a lot of candidates is addressing their cover letter to an unknown person, namely “To Whom It May Concern.”
In an age where most of the peoples’ lives are online, this just comes off as lazy and sloppy. Look through the job post and find out who is the contact person or the hiring manager. If it cannot be found, do a Google search or search on LinkedIn to find out who the VP of the department is and address it to them.
2. Write like you speak
Avoid super formalities such as “With the aforementioned experience, I hereby declare my interest….”
The person reading is also human and they would prefer if you talk like one. Silicon Valley investor, Paul Graham wrote an essay on this and it’s referred to as the “spoken language.”
Remember that this letter is to serve as starting a dialogue and not a one-off speech.
3. Write confidently
Do not undersell yourself by saying things such as “I know you have other qualified candidates than me….”
And avoid highlighting your weaknesses. Instead, highlight your strengths only and hyper focus on relevant points found on your resume.
Use the cover letter to introduce yourself in the best light and to talk about things that would be beneficial to the hiring manager.
4. Watch your spelling
Are you concerned about your spelling? Are your apostrophes not always spot on?
If so, ask a friend to spell check your cover letter for you or refer to this infographic for the common spelling mistakes.
5. Articulate your fit
Now we get the crux of the matter – why you are what they are looking for.
Companies don’t just hire people to fill up a role, they hire people to make their lives easier. Exhibit your knowledge and enthusiasm for the company. In other words, show them you have read their site, used their product and offer your solutions.
Further, emphasize your fit by adding examples to your strengths and relevant experiences.
6. Remove the redundancies
Avoid clichés like “I’m a fast learner… I think outside the box… ” and other redundancies.
Words like “I think… I feel… Really/Very….” are redundant and can give off a very wrong impression.
For a more detailed resource, read this.
7. Follow the 3 C’s of Writing
In three words, you will understand what makes good writing – that is Clear, Concise and Compelling.
David Silverman highlighted on the Harvard Business Review of a cover letter that he received that it was just 5 sentences and titled it the best cover letter he ever received.
Writing a cover letter is not difficult nor is it easy. There’s a fine balance to play between being needy for a job or being confident you are the right fit for the role, but having one thoughtfully written cover letter alone – is enough to separate you from the pack and stand out.
Author Bio: This post was written by Ben Sim from iPrice group.
Cover letters are your first sales pitch to a potential employer. Remember that employers receive hundreds of resumes and cover letters from people that are applying for the job you want. Your goal is to stand out from the other candidates. A good cover letter introduces you to the employer and explains why you are one of the best candidates applying for the job.
Tips for Better Cover Letters
The following are guidelines to help you create a cover letter that stands out from the crowd.
1. Proofread your letter for errors and tone before you mail it
Writing like a professional assumes that your letter contains no spelling, typing, or grammatical errors. Job applicants are frequently deselected because of such mistakes.
2. Address your letter to the person who can hire you—hiring managers and department heads
Call the company and find out the name and title of the person to whom to address your letter. It shows initiative and resourcefulness, and will impress your reader that you figured out a way to address him/her personally.
3. Send your letter to an individual, not a company
Use their name and title, when available. Do not guess gender when addressing a letter. Your goal is to get your letter to the person who is actually doing the hiring and for whom you would be working.
4. Write in your own words
Make sure that your letter sounds like you, not like something out of a book. Your cover letter, as well as your resume, should be an accurate reflection of your personality. Employers are looking for knowledge, enthusiasm, and focus.
5. Check out reference tools to help with grammar, spelling, etc.
Because it is so critical to be as accurate and professional as possible with your cover letter, don’t hesitate to utilize the variety of reference tools that are available to help you with grammar, spelling, and letter writing.
6. Show you know something about the company and the industry
This is where your research comes in. Don’t go overboard—just make it clear that you didn’t pick this company out of the phone book. You know who they are, what they do, and you have chosen them.
7. Use terms and phrases that are meaningful to the employer
Customize your letter as much as possible to the needs of the employer. This requires that you think about the company, their customers, and the work you see yourself doing for them.
8. Be sure you include a return address and phone number
Your return address includes your street address, city, state, zip code, and telephone number.
9. Adapt a formal tone to your letter to promote yourself as a professional
Your letter should be as close to a business proposal as you can get—not a plea for an interview. What do you offer that is of value. What objectives can you help them achieve.
10. Downplay “I” and emphasize “you”
Try to convert “I haves” into “you wants” for the employer. What can you do for the organization that will create interest and arouse a desire for an interview with you?
11. Sound confident, but not cocky
If you meet all the stated requirements for the job, spell this out in your letter. Accentuate the good match between your skills and their needs. Doing so will emphasize your viability as a candidate.
12. Make sure your letter provides readers with some insight into you as an individual
Make your accomplishments, skills, and background the subjects of your sentences, and emphasize what these can contribute to your reader’s organization. Use concrete, specific language so that the reader gets a good sense of what you have done and who you are.
13. Draft your letter in a way that shows how you will fit into the organization
State who you are and what you want in terms of what you can do for the company. Appeal to the self-interest of your employer.
14. Structure your letter so that each part achieves a particular goal
State the purpose of your letter in your opening paragraph. Keep the letter organized. Decide on the focus of your letter and ensure that all points reinforce the topic.
15. Visually call attention to your qualifications by underlining them, bolding them, or indenting them in lists with bullets
You have to be careful with underlining because the line is often printed too close to the word, and reduces its readability. Use these kinds of emphasis sparingly just to make the highlights stand out when the reader gives your letter a quick skim.
16. Keep it short
Keep it simple and clean…not cluttered. Use no more than seven lines, and preferably five or fewer, per paragraph. Vary the sentence length. None of the sentences should be very long, but you don’t want a staccato stream of very short sentences. One page is the maximum for letters.
17. Demonstrate your skills
For any position, there are two types of skills: core skills that any serious applicant will be expected to have, and a much broader range of skills that would be useful to the employer but go beyond the basic requirements. Having the first kind gets you in the door; the second makes you stand out from the competition.
18. Send original letters
Do not send copies that look mass-produced and do not use form letters. Do not use dot matrix printers. Do not hand-write your letter.
19. Keep the letter interesting
Your cover letter should cover two important points: (1) what you can do for the company (2) what the company needs that you have to offer. Most people miss the most important point. They spend all the time telling about themselves when they should be concentrating on how they will benefit the company. That is what the employer will find interesting.
20. Include a copy of your resume
Remember that the one purpose for a cover letter is to get your resume into the hands of the employer and to obtain an interview. Don’t forget to enclose a copy of your resume!
21. Avoid vague statements
A letter that could be sent to any employer merely by replacing the name of the company is called a broadcast letter. It can be improved with more specifics.
22. Open with an attention grabber that generates interest immediately
There are many ways to open your letter. Whatever opening you use, get to the point quickly, but engage your reader’s attention. If you quickly focus on discussing how you can contribute to the organization, you have a strong opening.
23. Do not enclose a photo
Unless you are seeking employment in modeling, acting, or other performance industries, it is not appropriate to send a photograph with your cover letter. An employer will see what you look like, should you reach the interview stage. Until then, a photo will not help you get a foot in the door!
24. Do not write in all caps
Do not justify right margins. The contents and organization of your letter are the most important elements, but presentation has an effect too. Be sure your letter has a professional appearance.
25. Finish your letter with a request
The primary goal of your cover letter is to get an interview. Be sure and ask for one at the end of your cover letter. Be prepared to initiate the follow-up communication yourself and let your prospective employer know you will be doing this. This may be just enough to get them to hold onto your letter and give it a more thorough reading.
“Your resume is the advertisement while your cover letter is part of your marketing campaign.”
According to Martin Yate, a cover letter is a letter of introduction attached to, or accompanying another document such as resume or curriculum vitae. It is a formal letter describing the resume and/or other items and the reasons for sending them. In a survey by Office Team, more than nine in 10 (91 percent) executives polled said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates. In addition, nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) respondents indicated it’s common to receive cover letters even when applicants submit resumes electronically.
Cover letter should be the first thing that hiring manager sees from an applicant. It should introduce the applicant’s skills and qualifications. But in the Philippines, applicants—mostly entry-level, barely submit a cover letter. This is a very big mistake because even Business Insider said that cover letter is more important than resume.
Importance of Cover Letter
Do you really think that cover letter is not important? Well, think again. Cover letter not only narrates your intention for the position but it recounts your edge over other candidates.
- It is usually the first thing a hiring manager sees.
- Could be the deciding factor between you and another candidates.
- It gives you the chance to tell employer why you are the perfect fit for the job.
- Narrates what you have to offer that will benefit the company or make a difference that others don’t.
- Tells what makes you stand out from the crowd.
- It is what sells you to the prospective employer.
- May be instrumental in your resume “leaping to the top of the pile”
“Competent job seekers submit a cover letter.”
- Even if the job posting did not require cover letter, submit one.
- Spend as much time perfecting your cover letter as you do to your resume.
- Don’t copy and paste from internet samples but if you have no choice, customize it like you’re writing in your tone.
- Begin by telling the screener which position you are applying for.
- Target each cover letter to each job. Don’t send the same cover letter to every employer.
- Keep it brief – good rule of thumb is 2-3 paragraphs for email and one page if printed.
- Tell how and why you would be an asset to the company by sharing how your qualifications, strengths and accomplishments match the job specifications.
- Research the employer, search online and talk to members of your professional network.
- Demonstrate your knowledge of the firm as you explain how your skills and background are a fit.
- Don’t rehash your resume in the cover letter.
- Use the hiring manager’s name in the address.
- Add a catchy P.S.
- Double check and proofread.
- If someone recommended you—you may want to include the person’s name.
- If responding to an advertisement, mention the source.
- Spell addressee’s name correctly and use proper title.
- Use a colon after their name, not a comma. Colons are used for business letters—commas for personal.
Now, what do you think? Should you write a cover letter? You decide.