How to Write Cover Letters Like itís Your Job
When you apply to a new position, you need more than a good resume. Even if you think it speaks for itself, a hiring manager weary of reading hundreds and hundreds of applications may be inclined to disagree. A cover letter, however, gives you the opportunity to highlight the exact reasons you’ll be a great fit for the position.
Get the Formatting Right
There are countless templates for cover letters available online. Choose something that suits a personality in line with the requirements of the position. A style that complements your resume is ideal. Make sure you choose a professional typeface—It’s hard to go wrong with Helvetica.
Figure out Who You’re Writing to
Rather than opening with “To Whom It May Concern,” identify the individual(s) who will be reading your letter. Ideally, if you already have a contact inside the company, you can ask them who to address the letter to. Otherwise, call or email the company and ask. Don’t worry, they won’t think it’s weird. Your initiative will show that you care about the position and want to take the utmost care with your application.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Your cover letter should be no more than a page long. Again, whoever is in charge of hiring has probably already read stacks and stacks of letters. Catch their attention by opening strong with some statements about who you are. Follow that with a paragraph or two about how your experiences will translate to solutions for the company’s needs. Finally, conclude by thanking your reader for their consideration.
If your letter has more than four paragraphs, you risk losing the hiring manager’s attention. As soon as they see it, they may choose to simply skim over what you’ve written for any interesting language instead of reading every sentence. This is why it’s important to police your tone.
“Professional” Doesn’t Mean “Stuffy”
Exclude any sentences that aren’t vital to who you are or why you’re the ideal employee for the position. You may recall your high school English teacher telling you to “show, don’t tell”. This principle holds true for cover letters. In your middle paragraph(s), you need to do more than just restate bullet points from your resume. If you think a particular experience will catch your potential employer’s attention, don’t simply say so, but illustrate it with an anecdote.
Keep your tone confident but not arrogant. What’s the difference? Compare the following two sentences:
- “I’m sure that my skills and experience will add value to your team.”
- “I know for a fact that no one else is as good as I am for this position.”
The first sentence is bold, but it only asserts that the individual feels they’re good at what they do. The second sentence, however, makes an outrageous claim that the applicant can’t possibly verify.
Tailor-Made Always Fits Best
Each cover letter you send should be written specifically for that position. Don’t just copy and paste the company and job names into a piece that you wrote for a cover letter assignment back in college. A hiring manager will see through that strategy before they reach your second paragraph.
Good luck. And don’t forget to follow up in a couple of weeks.