When putting together a job application, it’s easy to focus on the resume and forget about the cover letter until the end. While a pain point for some job applicants, a cover letter requires the same amount of care and commitment as the resume.
According to CareerBuilder, 49% of recruiters believe attaching a cover letter is a crucial tactic to helping them land an interview.
Thus view your cover letter as the first meeting between yourself and the recruiter and how you want to leave a good impression on them.
To help those struggling with cover letter writing, today we will walk you through what you need to know to write a standout cover letter and land an interview.
Pre-Cover Letter Writing
Before beginning to write your cover letter, you want to research the company and the position. During your research, read more about the company’s values and mission. This is important because you want to detail how your personality makes you a good culture fit for the organization.
In addition to learning about the company’s values, try to find the hiring manager’s name on LinkedIn or the company’s website so you can address them by name in the cover letter.
CareerBuilder has found that a resume and a cover letter are 36% more likely not to be further considered if these documents are not personalized for the role. Therefore, take any chance you can to personalize your application, which includes addressing the hiring manager by name.
When you research the company, go back and reread the job description and take note of what requirements and skills you are strong in, so you can include them in the letter.
A key to writing a successful cover letter is to match your skills and goals to the company’s needs and mission.
Once you have gathered all this information, the next step is to write the cover letter.
Overall, the cover letter should be no more than 3-4 short paragraphs. This includes an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The average time a recruiter spends looking at a resume is seven seconds thus, do not expect a recruiter to read a long-detailed letter.
Another key to writing a standout cover letter is to keep the letter short but detailed on why you are an excellent fit for the role throughout the limited space you have available.
Depending on how the cover letter is submitted, this will change, depending on the format. For example, if you are emailing the recruiter the cover letter becomes the body of the email. As for the header, all you must include is a salutation and the recruiter’s name if available to you.
If you are using email, make sure to have all your contact information that you would have listed in the letter head included in your email signature instead. This can follow the same format highlighted in the formal letterhead example below.
If submitting your cover letter through an application portal, you want to include a more standard header. The header should be as follows:
At the end of the email, use a professional closing stating sincerely, best regards, or kind regards, followed by your first and last name.
Following the header comes the opening paragraph. The opening paragraph should hook the recruiter and make them interested in reading more about your skillset.
In the opening paragraph, convey your intent, experience, and connections you might have to the company. Additionally, most people tend to include where they found the job.
An example is “With over 20 years of experience in Information Technology, I’m looking to build on my skills in a Senior Project Manager Role as I apply my expertise towards the government sector.”
Things to include in the opening paragraph are:
- A brief statement of experience.
- The job title you are applying for.
- Why you are looking for a new position.
- Where you found the posting.
This paragraph should serve as a brief introduction to why you want the role and why you qualify.
The body paragraph will include more specific information related to your experience, the job description, and the company’s values. It is okay to split the body paragraph into two short paragraphs for reading flow if necessary.
Similar to your resume, you don’t want your cover letter to be generic; therefore, use this paragraph to show the recruiter why you aren’t an ordinary applicant.
In this paragraph, you want to be specific about how your experience will match the company’s needs. You can even pull out a quote from the description and describe how you fit the company’s values or your experience related to the job requirements.
For instance, as you relate your experience to the job description, you might want to use this format:
I noticed in your job description that you are looking for someone who (including part from the job description). Currently, I work as a (include your current title) where I (have a measurable accomplishment).
Throughout the body paragraph, include how your values match those of the company. This can consist of experience volunteering in the same sector of the company or why you believe in the company’s mission.
The more efficient and effective you are at relating the company’s needs and goals to your experience and values will make you a more impressive candidate.
The concluding paragraph mentions that you have included your resume and is your attempt to move the application process to the next steps (Guffey & Loewry, 2019).
In this paragraph give a hint at asking for an interview. Although, be cautious as you don’t want to be presumptuous but show you are eager and open to further conversations.
Some ways you might go about asking for an interview include:
- If you would like to schedule an interview, my phone number is (xxx) xxx-xxxx, and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you have questions about my resume or would like to speak more about my experience, feel free to call me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx or email me at email@example.com.
The final part of writing a standout cover letter is editing it and getting some feedback from your family and friends. Try to avoid any grammatical errors or typos at all costs, as most recruiters may disregard you for further consideration.
Crafting a successful job application is challenging and having a standout cover letter is only part of a job application.
While you can find out more about writing a resume in our previous blog post, know that with time, practice, and help from family, friends, or one of HEPCO’s trusted recruiters, landing the job of your dreams will become less complicated.
Source: Guffey, M. E., & Loewy, D. (2019). Chapter 14: Interviewing and Following Up. In Essentials of Business Communication (11th ed., pp. 452–462). essay, Cengage Learning.
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