After spending hours and hours searching for a cool job, another equally hard task awaits you, the cover letter. But not to worry, a noteworthy cover letter can be the reason you land your dream job! In fact, a study made by Careerbuilder revealed that 49% of the employers consider attaching a cover letter a crucial part of every application. That said, you have to write a cover letter that would stand out from the dozens of other applications. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to write a cover letter. Let’s see!
How to Write a Cover Letter in 12 Simple Steps
Before we begin, we have to address the elephant in the room. The first question that pops into everyone’s mind is, why do I need a cover letter? Why can’t my resume speak for itself? Think about it. Would your employer prefer to dive in an endless pile of resumes to filter prospects? That’s an easy no. They tend to make most of their initial decisions based on the cover letter. If it works, they proceed to check your resume. If it doesn’t, the resume would probably spend the afternoon in the paper shredder!
Step 1: Keep It Short
Since cover letters are meant to be concise, a lot of job seekers often worry about whether it’s too long. As a rule of thumb, your cover letter shouldn’t be longer than a full page. If you can go a bit shorter, it’d be even better. With a 12-pt font, the perfect length should include around 200-250 words. But this shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all plan. Make sure to thoroughly check the job ad because some employers prefer to specify the maximum word count they want.
Step 2: Pick a Template
Let’s pause here for a sec. If you want to land a job, never use generic cover letters. Since this is the go-to solution for lazy applicants, employers end up reading the same letter over and over again. So, when I say pick a template, I’m referring to a visual template rather than a ready-made text. Why? Well, a cover letter is all about leaving a good first impression. There’s nothing better than a visually-pleasing page to do this job. Without a doubt, the internet is full of great templates.
Step 3: Start with Your Contacts
Just like your resume, the cover letter has to include your contacts. Who knows, maybe the employer decides to shortlist you right away!
You can use the following order:
- Current or recent title
- Phone number
You can also include any special websites or social media accounts relevant to your industry. Developers usually mention their GitHub page, designers go for Behance, and writers link to their personal website. LinkedIn can be also useful to show your endorsements and work history.
Step 4: Don’t Overdo It
It’s crucial to only write details that truly matter. Your address, for example, fits more in your resume. Birthdate, marital status, and similar details won’t make much of a difference, either. And now to an absolutely important detail that many applicants overlook, the email address. I’ve stumbled upon a lot of unprofessional email accounts myself. To be frank, it’s hard to take someone seriously when his email says email@example.com! Keep it as simple as you can. I know that a lot of email providers can give you a hard time in this matter. But try to stick to firstname.lastname@example.org. If unavailable, you can try adding a couple of numbers or maybe some “mild” symbols.
Step 5: Personally Greet the Hiring Manager
Please, do yourself a favor and stay away from the awfully famous “Dear Sir/Madam”. Since this is the typical intro of generic cover letters, employers would almost always ditch your letter when they spot it.
Today, you can easily find any information you want about almost every company. Not knowing whom you’re writing to would only mean you were too lazy to do the search. Or worse, you’re just shooting hundreds of applications to random jobs, hoping that you’d land one of them.
Instead, write a personal greeting. Something like:
- Dear Dr. (Last Name)
- Dear Mr. (First Name, Last Name)
- Dear Ms. (Last Name), (Job Title)
Where to find this information? LinkedIn should be your best bet. Companies usually link to their employees right on their main page. A quick search on Google, Facebook, and Twitter can also do the trick.
Step 6: Write a Killer, Informative Intro
Like I said earlier, employers don’t have the time to read every resume, that’s why they prefer cover letters. But guess what, they won’t read every bit of your cover letter, either! Therefore, you need to catch their attention with a carefully crafted intro. You shouldn’t suffice by stating your vague working experience. Instead, try to briefly state your top achievement in your recent jobs. For example, don’t suffice with saying that you worked as a senior developer in XYZ for X years. This would work only if your recent company is famous enough to catch the attention. Alternatively, mention one of the famous apps, software, or programs in which you participated. This way, you’ll be more likely to grab the employer’s attention if he actually heard about the mentioned examples. He can then proceed to verify if you’re really telling the truth.
Step 7: Begin with the Classic “I’m Applying to”
Hiring managers can handle more than one vacancy at the same time. If you’re unlucky, your documents might get caught up in the wrong pile. If this happens, it’d become nearly impossible to sort your files back if you don’t mention the job you’re applying for. That’s why it’s always important to start with “I am delighted to apply for [job] with [Company]”, no matter how cliched it sounds.
Step 8: Explain Why You’re Perfect for the Job
Alright, you’ve successfully caught the employer’s attention with the brief experience you provided in the intro. Now, should you keep listing your achievements? No. You’re writing a cover letter, not showcasing your trophy cupboard! You should analyze the needs of your employer to show how your experience can be beneficial.
Step 9: Look for Details in the Job Ad
Let’s assume you’re applying for a writer position. In the job ad, the employer says that he wants to start a new blog for financial and economic niches. He wants someone who can rapidly analyze trends to write about them before anyone else does. To write an effective cover letter, you can talk about how you improved the SEO results by writing content in these exact niches. You can also talk about the challenges you faced and how you managed to overcome them. Then, try to directly relate to what he wants. In this case, you can talk about how well you covered recent news concerning this field and how the audience reacted. This way, the employer would be 100% certain that you know what you’re talking about.
Step 10: Now Explain Why You’re Perfect for the Company
Alright, now that you’ve fully covered the actual job, it’s time to zoom out and look at the big picture. Employers are searching for someone to satisfy their needs. But they’re also looking for someone who would enjoy working for them. As cheesy as it may sound, you should start writing about what you love in the company itself. And again, Google, and the various social channels, should be the right tool for this job.
Talk about Their Culture
It’d be great if you could find details about how they manage their work. Will someone supervise every task you’re assigned? Or will you have a bit of a wiggle room? Then, use this information alongside your experience, just like what you did in the previous step. For example, if they allow freedom for employees to handle some issues on their own, talk about how you handled similar situations in your career. Explain how you rose to the occasion when your previous company needed you the most.
Relate to their Services or Products
This is by far the easiest way to clearly show the employer the amount of work you’ve put into researching. To give you an example, let’s assume you’re applying for a marketing manager position in a big firm called XYZ. It’s possible to talk about their latest innovative product launches. Explain how well they addressed the customers’ needs. Talk about how they managed to rapidly widen their loyal customer base.
Address Their Future Projects
Is the company in question currently planning for a huge step? If so, you can benefit from this fact by describing what you can add to improve the upcoming project. But to be frank, it can be quite tricky to find this kind of information. They’re typically confidential for the sake of competition. Still, you can find your way if you’ve been following this company for a while. You can personally contact one of the employees with whom you have mutual friends. It’s also possible to find some helpful hints on the social media accounts of the company’s managers.
Step 11: Now Close It Like a Professional
Here’s the trickiest part about cover letters. Applicants often focus their whole efforts on the previous paragraphs, overlooking the outro. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the outro is more important than the rest. But a bad one can ruin all your previous efforts.
Don’t Sound Needy
In everyday life, your mother would gratefully pass you the salt when you say “please”. But when you’re applying for a job, this is definitely not the case. Reading a full paragraph with all sorts of begging and pleading won’t be valuable for any employer. He’ll decide to proceed into your resume only if he likes your skills and experience.
So, never use the following sentences:
- I really wish you’d give me a chance.
- Can you please take a look at my resume?
- I’m eagerly waiting for your reply.
Don’t Use Clichés, Either
Just like the intro, you don’t need to use the cliched sentences seen on every cover letter template. This includes:
- Thank you for your consideration.
- Thanks for taking the time to review my letter
- I hope to talk to you soon.
If you don’t have anything more to say, you’d be better off leaving it blank.
Instead, Write an Enticing Offer
The best way to end a cover letter is by writing a call-to-action. Invite the employer to discuss the current company goals with you. Tell him/her that you have a bunch of ideas that can drastically improve their current market position.
Step 12: Proofread, proofread, proofread.
Missing typos in a 250-word page would definitely say one thing, you’re not dedicated enough for a serious job. Sara McCord, an editor at the Muse, says “I skim the document for anything that could be disqualifying. That includes typos, a Dear Sir or Madam, or To Whom It May Concern.” When she stumbles upon such issues, she reads them as, “I didn’t take my time with this, and I don’t really care about working here.” Pay attention to words that sound similar. Your/you’re, there/their, and won’t/want are among the most common mistakes. Take your time after finishing to proofread multiple times before sending the letter. If English isn’t your first language, you can use any of the online writing assistants. Grammarly is one of the best. For a free account, it can spot mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and some word choices.
To Sum Up
A perfect cover letter should start with concise contacts and an attractive, personalized intro. Avoid using generic terms because they might show a lack of genuine interest. Then, start mentioning your experience by relating to the details you find in the job description. In the next paragraph, talk about the company’s culture and why you’d be a perfect fit. Avoid randomly listing your experience because it won’t interest anyone. In the end, close your letter with a professional call-to-action without sounding too needy. This was the complete guide on how to write a cover letter! I wish you the best in your future job!