Your cover letter is most likely what your prospective employer will read first. So, make sure you don’t use the exact same cover letter script for every single job that you apply for.
If you don’t want your job application to end up in the reject pile even before an employer has read your resume, then be mindful of what you write!
How to write a cover letter that works
Your cover letter should start in a strong manner that captures the attention and curiosity of the person reading it.
Although your goal is to keep your letter short and sweet, it needs to be informative enough to deliver the information that the employer is looking for.
To increase your chances of getting shortlisted for an interview, you need to deliver the facts that are needed while creating a level of curiosity in the employer to find out more about you.
By using these top ten tips, you can plan out and build yourself a cover letter that will grab the attention of the employer and encourage them to read your resume.
1. Don’t be impersonal
Remember that your cover letter is a professional introduction. Whenever possible, address your letter to an actual person. This is usually the person in charge of hiring at a company such as the Human Resources Manager.
In most cases, the job advert will give a name for you to address your application to. Make sure that you use it! If there is no addressee mentioned, reach out to the company and ask for a name.
This is better than being vague and impersonal by addressing your cover letter to: The hiring manager, or: To whom it may concern. This is too impersonal and creates the wrong impression.
2. Introduce yourself
Your cover letter is a tool to break the ice and to introduce yourself to the employer. So do just that!
- Give them your name
- What position you are applying for
- What skills, experience and knowledge you can bring to the company
3. Customize your cover letter
This is probably THE most important tip that we can pass on to you. Customization is the key to a successful cover letter.
Always take the time to customize your cover letter for each job application that you make. Make sure you detail the specific skill-set that you possess that the company is looking for.
Use phraseology that mirrors the company language – mimics how they speak. Describe your skills and knowledge in a way that the company would describe them.
Try to avoid many of the commonly repeated phrases that people use in generic cover letters. Remember that an employer can spend many long hours sorting through cover letters and resumes.
Their minds will quickly switch off and your application will be lost to the reject pile.
4. Do your research
If you want to work for a company, it helps to know them inside and out. Many businesses will have a lot of free information for you to search and read up on via their company website.
Read their back history, the company ethos and their beliefs. If they meet and align with your own then this makes it easier for you to speak with genuine passion about why you want to work for the company in your cover letter.
Always remember that the company will be swamped with perfectly qualified job candidates with the exact same skill-set and work history as you. What makes a candidate stand out is someone that is very well-informed about their company and has shared beliefs and goals.
5. Look at the job requirements
While doing your company research, check the job advert and the job description. Note down what skills are required to do the job.
Also, look at who the company mainly deals with. Do they focus on B2C or B2B? This will give you an idea about how to phrase your language in your cover letter.
If this is a B2B company you can highlight and reinforce your B2B experience. This will help you to stand out more than a similar candidate with only B2C experience and vice versa.
6. Use a resume cover letter format
Make sure to format your cover letter to perfectly match your resume. Your cover letter is not only a tool of introduction, but it also helps to back up your resume.
Formatting is important here to show that you pay attention to detail. Make sure that you use the same font size and style as you use for your resume.
Also, make sure to use the same margin sizes and spaces that are reflected in your resume. You want it to match so that it doesn’t break the eye-line of the reader and their attention isn’t broken by an inconsistent layout.
You can make it a lot easier on yourself if you chose to use a resume template with a matching cover letter. By doing this you will be sure that both of these important documents will match perfectly.
7. Remain humble
The last thing you want to do is to put off your potential new employer by coming across as a big-headed know-it-all in your cover letter.
While it is fine to talk positively about yourself and your achievements that are relative to the job in hand, it never sounds good to brag. Instead, stay professional and courteous in your address.
The employer will be looking for a candidate that will fit in well with others in their company. They will be looking for someone that has the knowledge and experience they need, but will also be open-minded and willing to learn from their peers.
8. Check, edit, check, edit, then check and edit again
You will be amazed at how many resumes and cover letters get rejected because of reasons such as poor grammar, spelling mistakes, repeated information and obvious typos.
While you may be tempted to shoehorn a lot of information into your cover letter, remember that it needs to be kept short.
By reviewing and editing your cover letter you can cut out on excessive words or long explanations that can be said in fewer words.
9. Get someone else to review your cover letter
It is always worth having a fresh pair of eyes to scan over your cover letter. Having someone else check your letter may draw your attention to something you missed, such as poor grammar or phraseology, a spelling mistake or a feeling that the letter is too long/too short etc.
While it may be handy to simply get one of your family members to check over your cover letter for you, it helps to remember that they will be biased because they love you.
What you need is an objective pair of eyes to cast a look over your letter, so choose someone that you know will give you an honest opinion and isn’t afraid to appraise it with a critical eye.
Choose a trusted work colleague or a friend that has your best interests at heart. This way you will get an honest opinion rather than flattery or praise for your efforts.
10 .Finish in a strong manner
You need to close your cover letter as positively as you started it off.
It is better to have a strong finish that tells the employer what to do next. Tell them that you are happy to go into more detail about your experience and are willing to discuss this further in an interview.
Don’t forget to include your contact details – you will be surprised to hear that so many people forget to include this information, especially when they are busy focussing on the content of the cover letter rather than the basics.
Hopefully, these top tips will give you the tools to help write a very strong and compelling cover letter. Check out our list of cover letter examples by profession for laser targeted tips.
Do remember that your cover letter gives you a chance to get your foot in the door for an interview. Try to stick to the points above and avoid any negative language that will be a turn off to a potential new employer.
Don’t include information that is already listed in your resume. Never repeat your resume in your cover letter. The employer will not appreciate reading the same information twice.
One final tip – NEVER use your cover letter to speak badly of your former employer. This not only looks very unprofessional, but it bears absolutely no relevance to the job that you are applying for. Stay on point!
Good luck with your next job interview!