Via The Muse : How to Write a Cover Letter: The All-Time Best Tips
Ah, the dreaded cover letter. Every time you sit down to write one, you probably browse cover letter examples online, get overwhelmed, and think something to the effect of: Does anyone really read these? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if I could just let my resume speak for itself?
First off: Yes, we can assure you that cover letters do, in fact, get read. In fact, to some hiring managers, they’re the most important part of your application. And yes, while it would be easier to let your resume speak for itself, if that was the case you’d completely miss the opportunity to tell prospective employers who you are, showcase why they should hire you, and stand out above all the other candidates.
Ready to dive in? To make sure your letter is in amazing shape (and crafting it is as painless as possible), we’ve brought the best advice on writing a cover letter into one place. Read on—then get to writing!
Cover Letter Basics
Write a Fresh Cover Letter for Each Position
Yes, it’s way faster and easier to take the cover letter you wrote for your last application, change the name of the company, and send it off. But most employers want to see that you’re truly excited about the specific position and company—which means creating a custom letter for each position you apply for.
While it’s OK to recycle a few strong sentences and phrases from one cover letter to the next, don’t even think about sending out a 100% generic letter. “Dear Hiring Manager, I am excited to apply to the open position at your company” is an immediate signal to recruiters and hiring managers that you’re resume-bombing every job listing in town. Mistakes like this can get your application tossed straight in the trash.
But Go Ahead, Use a Template
That said, there’s nothing that says you can’t get a little help. Try some basic cover letter templates, or one that focuses on your skills.
Your Cover Letter Greeting and First Paragraph
Include the Hiring Manager’s Name
The most traditional way to address a cover letter is to use the person’s first and last name, including “Mr.” or “Ms.” (for example, “Dear Ms. Jane Smith” or just “Dear Ms. Smith”). If you know for sure that the company or industry is more casual, you can drop the title and last name (“Dear Jane”). And if you’re not 100% positive whether to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” based on the name and some Googling, definitely skip the title.
Never use generic salutations like “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”—they’re stiff, archaic, and did we mention that cover letters need to be customized? If you can’t figure out the specific hiring manager’s name, try addressing your cover letter to the head of the department for the role you’re applying for. Or if you honestly can’t find a single real person to address your letter to, aim for something that’s still somewhat specific, like “Systems Engineer Hiring Manager” or “Account Executive Search Committee.”
Craft a Killer Opening Line
No need to lead with your name—the hiring manager can see it already on your resume. It’s good to mention the job you’re applying for (the hiring manager may be combing through candidates for half a dozen different jobs), and yes, you could go with something simple like, “I am excited to apply for [job] with [Company].” But consider introducing yourself with a snappy first sentence that highlights your excitement about the company you’re applying to, your passion for the work you do, or your past accomplishments.
The Main Event
What to Put in the Body of Your Cover Letter
Go Beyond Your Resume
A super common pitfall many job seekers fall into is to use their cover letter to regurgitate what’s on their resume. Don’t simply repeat yourself: “I was in charge of identifying and re-engaging former clients.” Instead, expand on those bullet points to paint a fuller picture of your experiences and accomplishments, and show off why you’d be perfect for the job and the company.
For example: “By analyzing past client surveys, NPS scores, and KPIs, as well as simply picking up the phone, I was able to bring both a data-driven approach and a human touch to the task of re-engaging former clients.”
Having trouble figuring out how to do this? Try asking yourself these questions:
- What approach did you take to tackling one of the responsibilities you’ve mentioned on your resume?
- What details would you include if you were telling someone a (very short!) story about how you accomplished that bullet point?
- What about your personality, passion, or work ethic made you especially good at getting the job done?
Think Not What the Company Can Do for You
Another common cover letter mistake? Talking about how great the position would be for you and your resume. Frankly, hiring managers are aware of that—what they really want to know is what you’re going to bring to the position and company. Try to identify the company’s pain points—the problem or problems that they need the person they hire to solve. Then emphasize the skills and experience you have that make you the right person to solve them.
On that note…
Highlight the Right Experiences
Not sure what skills and experiences you should be featuring? Typically the most important requirements for the position will be listed first in the job description, or mentioned more than once. You’ll want to make sure you describe how you can deliver on those key priorities.
Another trick: Drop the text of the job description into a word cloud tool like WordClouds, and see what stands out. That’s what the hiring manager is looking for most.
Showcase Your Skills
When you know you have the potential to do the job—but your past experience doesn’t straightforwardly sell you as the perfect person for the position—try focusing on your skills instead. That skills-based template we mentioned before will help you do just that. (Psst: You can also take this approach with a skills-based resume.)
…Not Necessarily Your Education
New grads, especially, often make the mistake of over-focusing on their educational backgrounds. At the end of the day, what hiring managers care about most is your work experience (and yes, that can be volunteer or internship experience, too)—and what you can walk through the door and deliver on day one.
Don’t Apologize for Your Missing Experience
When you don’t meet all of the job requirements, it’s tempting to use lines like, “Despite my limited experience as a manager…” or “While I may not have direct experience in marketing…” But why apologize? Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, emphasize the strengths and transferable skills you do have.
Here’s what that might look like: “I’m excited to translate my experience in [what you’ve done in the past] to a position that’s more [what you’re hoping to do next].”
Throw in a Few Numbers
Hiring managers love to see stats—they show you’ve had a measurable impact on an organization or company you’ve worked for. That doesn’t mean you have to have doubled revenue at your last job. Did you bring in more clients than any of your peers? Put together an impressive number of events? Made a process at work 30% more efficient? Those numbers speak volumes about what you could bring to your next position, and make your cover letter stand out.
Used sparingly, great feedback from former co-workers, managers, or clients can go a long way toward illustrating your passion or skills.
Here’s an example of how you might weave it in: “When I oversaw our last office move, my color-coded spreadsheets covering every minute detail of the logistics were legendary; my manager said I was so organized, she’d trust me to plan an expedition to Mars.”
Be Open to Other Formats
If you’re applying to a more traditional company, then the tried-and-true three-to-five-paragraph format probably makes sense. However, if you’re gunning for a more creative or startup job—or need to explain to the hiring manager, say, how your career has taken you from teaching to business development—a different approach could be appropriate.
Here at The Muse, we’ve seen cover letters use bullet points, tell stories, or showcase videos to (successfully) get their point across. One woman wrote a cover letter from her dog’s perspective. This professional even turned hers into a BuzzFeed-style list!
Finding Your Voice
How to Strike the Right Tone
Cut the Formality
We know, you’re trying to be professional. But being excessively formal can actually backfire on you, career expert Mark Slack points out: “It makes you seem insincere and even robotic, not anything like the friendly, approachable, and awesome-to-work-with person you are.”
Even when you’re applying for a very corporate role, there’s usually room to express yourself in a conversational, genuine way.
Write in the Company’s “Voice”
Cover letters are a great way to show that you understand the environment and culture of the company and industry. Spending some time reading over the company website or stalking their social media before you get started can be a great way to get in the right mindset—you’ll get a sense for the company’s tone, language, and culture, which are all things you’ll want to mirror as you’re writing.
Go Easy on the Enthusiasm
We can’t tell you how many cover letters we’ve seen from people who are “absolutely thrilled for the opportunity” or “very excitedly applying!” Yes, you want to show personality, creativity, and excitement. But downplay the adverbs a bit, and just write like a normal person.
Don’t Let Your Fear of Bragging Get in the Way
If you tend to have a hard time writing about yourself, here’s a quick trick: What would your favorite boss, your best friend, or your mentor say about you? How would they sing your praises? Then write the letter from their point of view.
Your Final Words (and Final Edits)
Keep it Short and Sweet
There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page. In one survey, more than two-thirds of employers said they preferred a cover letter that’s either just half a page (around 250 words) or “the shorter the better.”
It’s tempting to treat the final lines of your cover letter as a throwaway: “I look forward to hearing from you.” But your closing paragraph is your last chance to emphasize your enthusiasm for the company or how you’d be a great fit for the position.
For example, you could say: “I’m passionate about [Company]’s mission and would love to bring my [add your awesome skills here] to this position.” You can also use the end of your letter to add important details—like, say, the fact that you’re willing to relocate for the job.
We shouldn’t have to tell you to run your cover letter through spell-check (you should!), but remember that having your computer scan for typos isn’t the same as editing. Set your letter aside for a day or even a few hours, and then read through it again with fresh eyes—you’ll probably notice some changes you want to make. You might even want to ask a friend or family member to give it a look.
If you need some extra help, you can check out how the wording sounds to others using Hemingway. Paste in your text, and the app will highlight sentences and sections that are too complex or wordy, use passive voice, or are overloaded with fancy vocabulary when simpler words will do. You don’t have to take all of its suggestions (maybe “facilitate” really is the best word choice there!), but it’s a handy way to check the readability of your letter.
Remember, one spelling or grammar mistake can be all it takes to turn off the hiring manager—especially if writing skills are an important part of the role you’re applying for.
Have Someone Gut Check It
Have a friend take a look at your cover letter, and ask him or her two questions: Does this sell me as the best person for the job? and Does it get you excited? If the answer to either is “no,” or even slight hesitation, go back for another pass.
via Payscale : Why Are Cover Letters Still Such a Mystery?
Cover letters are annoying. They’re annoying to write, can be annoying to read, and while they seem like a no-brainer, many people put far too much weight on them. In fact, it’s easy to spend so much time stressing over the cover letter that you ultimately don’t even end up applying.
But, cover letters are also great! They give you an opportunity to hook someone in a way that your resume alone can’t usually do, and show that you’re not just an hour-clocking robot. (That is, unless a machine is sorting through the cover letters and resumes. In which case, this advice might help.)
I’ve gotten plenty of conflicting advice over the years about what to put in a cover letter, which doesn’t exactly paint the clearest picture for penning a successful one. Fast Company says to forget about them and beef up your resume. An old manager of mine said he loved receiving hard copies with handwritten notes. A friend of mine exclusively sends video cover letters. Some companies want you to buck the trend altogether and tell them a great story (ideally about you and your work). The more you think about it, a paper outline of your accomplishments accompanies by a formal letter really isn’t that interesting. Who’d want to read that?
Is Anyone Listening?
The answer, it seems, is next to no one, and some hiring managers don’t even bother reading them. Katt Hancher, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, and Director of Human Resources at RCG, Inc., says she barely has time to read them. And that she’s not the only one in the industry that gives cover letters the cold shoulder.
“We were recently discussing this at a SHRM social. The consensus was that busy recruiters never read cover letters — no time.”
Instead, Hancher recommends crafting a compelling email when you send your materials over in the first place. Compelling — but short.
“You can say what needs to be said in the email sent when attaching your resume,” she explains. “I sometimes will request a focused cover [letter] in email form, when I need info frequently left off resumes.”
Cover Letters: TL;DR
While some industries will request that you not waste too much of their time with a cover letter (TL;DR), others will be happy to get a glimpse of your qualifications and personality. A great cover letter does both, while addressing why it’s all relevant to the position you’re applying for, and the company overall. Still, finding a character count-sensitive way to do this can be tricky — especially if you know you’re qualified, but don’t quite know how to express that.
Whichever way you slice it, cover letters are a mystery. But there are a few things you can do to make writing bespoke (and they should be bespoke) cover letters easier.
1. Read the job description carefully. And recognize that based on what you’re applying for, some of your experience might not matter as much. Be prepared to spin your smarts in a way that makes sense for this particular role. If you’re a programmer who doubles as a food editor, that’s great, but probably not worth mentioning in the cover letter for tech-oriented job.
2. Open with a strong first impression. Figure out who you’re writing to (LinkedIn is great for this!), introduce yourself, then contextualize your experience in the first paragraph. Give a brief statement of what you do, how you do it, and for how long you’ve done it. This paragraph should be the shortest of your cover letter.
3. Lead them on. Next, lead them to a list of points with something to the effect of, “Here’s why I think I’d be a great fit for your team.” Then address your main qualifications in an easy-to-scan, bulleted list. You should probably include any impressive impact or ROI figures, and call out the most important things you want them to know about you.
4. Organize your thoughts. The cover letter allows you space to use sentences and paragraphs, but do so sparingly. Odds are, the hiring manager is going to be reading through several (possibly hundreds) of cover letters. Make yours easy to read.
5. Play the game. Many companies use applicant tracking systems to skim through resumes and cover letters in search of specific keywords. These are usually outlined in the job description. It sucks to feel like you’re writing for a robot, but these days, you kind of are at first. Pull out keywords from the job posting that are relevant to your experience, and work them into your content.
6. Be specific. Why you? Why them? In your cover letter, you should have at least two good, solid, memorable reasons for wanting to work for the company to which you’re applying. Do you care about their social mission? Are you interested in working for the industry leader? Is there a particular client of theirs you love, or a campaign from the past year that you really admired? There’s obviously a reason you want to work for the company, so say so.
Tell Us What You Think
And here’s your chance to tell us that all of this advice is bologna! How do you handle cover letters? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Tell us about it in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.
via Time : What your cover letter should look like in 2017
Cover letters are a tough and tricky business.
Striking the right balance between formal and conversational—while differentiating yourself from every other job seeker on the market—is no small feat. And the monotony of filling out online applications can make the task downright exhausting.
But make no mistake: a stellar cover letter is still a job search must-have, and it could be key to catching a hiring manager’s attention.
Every cover letter you write should be tailored to the job you’re applying for — just like your resume. Study the job posting carefully, and make a quick list of any essential qualifications.
“Job seekers really struggle with what to say on a cover letter,” says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, President and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. “Taking a second to think about why you’re applying, and why you’re a good fit for the company, makes the process a lot easier.”
If you’re adding a cover letter to an online application, use a business letter format with a header and contact information. If you’re sending an email, it’s OK to leave out the header, but be sure to provide a phone number (and an attached resume, of course). Make sure you’re clear about the position you’re applying for.
Avoid nameless salutations — it might take a little Google research, and some LinkedIn outreach, but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score you major brownie points. “Do not start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’” Holbrook Hernandez says. “It concerns no one.”
2. Tell a Story
To grab a recruiter’s attention, a good narrative—with a killer opening line—is everything.
“The cover letter is a story,” says Satjot Sawhney, a resume and career strategist with Loft Resumes. “What is the most interesting thing you’re doing that’s relevant to this job?” Use that to guide your letter.
Ideally, the story that drives your resume will focus on a need at the company you’re applying for. If you’re a PR professional, maybe you have a list of clients in an industry the team wants to break into. If you’re in marketing, a successful promotional campaign might be the ticket in. “A hiring manager wants to see results-driven accomplishments with a past employer,” says Holbrook Hernandez. “If you’ve done it before, you can deliver it again.”
If you have a career gap or are switching industries, address it upfront. “If there’s anything unique in your career history, call that out in the beginning,” says professional resume writer Brooke Shipbaugh.
3. Use Bullet Points to Show Impact
Hiring managers are usually slammed with applications, so short, quick cover letters are preferable to bloated ones, says Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of human resources at job site Indeed.
“Make your cover letter a brief, bright reference tool,” he says. “The easier you can make it on the recruiter the better.”
Bullet points are a good tool for pulling out numbers-driven results. Job seekers in creative fields like art and design can use bullets to break down their most successful project. Those in more traditional roles (like the one in the template), can hammer off two or three of their most impressive accomplishments.
4. Highlight Culture Fit
It’s often overlooked, but a major function of the cover letter is to show a company how well you’d mesh with the culture.
As you research a potential employer, look for culture cues on the company website, social media, and review sites like Glassdoor. Oftentimes, employers will nod to culture in a job posting. If the ad mentions a “team environment,” it might be good to play up a recent, successful collaboration. If the company wants a “self-starter,” consider including an achievement that proves you don’t need to be micromanaged.
The tone of your letter can also play to culture. “The cover letter is a great place to show [an employer] how you fit into their world,” Shipbaugh says. “Show some personality.”
5. End with an Ask
The goal of a cover letter is to convince the person reading it to make the next move in the hiring process — with a phone call, interview, or otherwise. Ending on a question opens that door without groveling for it.
“You have to approach this with a non-beggar mentality,” Sawhney says. “Having an ‘ask’ levels the playing field.”
via Aol. : How to write a standout cover letter
How do you write a winning cover letter?
Well depending on how you look at it, this task may be easier or harder than you think. But long story short is it all comes down to strategy.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re not going to win if you write an average cover letter, with zero strategy behind it, that reads like it was thrown together in a 20-minute rush.
Recruiters and hiring managers have seen so many cover letters that it only takes a few seconds for them to recognize if it’s what they’re looking for or not. That means you can’t spend all week working on your resume and then allocate just one hour to write a cover letter—trust me, it won’t be any good.
I’d spend just as much time making my cover letter spectacular as I would my resume. And you should too if you want to give yourself the best chance to get a great job.
Because with tough competition, every element of your job search (mainly your resume, cover letter, and interview answers, but even your thank you note) needs to be executed at a high level. Nothing can be half done and roughly put together. Now that I’ve established the importance of the cover letter, here’s how to write a winner.
HOW DO YOU WRITE A WINNING COVER LETTER?
Based on my wildly successful job search, coaching other people, and reviewing resumes and cover letters myself, I have the experience to know what makes a winning cover letter.
The winning cover letter:
- Makes it crystal clear why you want to work for their specific company
- Provides specific evidence that you would succeed in the role (your relevant past experiences)
- Shows your enthusiasm for the work
- Hints that you’re very confident in your ability
- Has zero grammar, punctuation, or accuracy mistakes
- Supports your resume, doesn’t repeat it in paragraph form
- Shines a light on your personality and people skills
That’s about all you need to write the winning cover letter.
Top candidates who win offers will have 6 to 7 of those traits in their cover letter, average candidates will have 3 to 4, and losing candidates will have 0 to 2. However, as you probably know, execution is the name of the game…
MASTER THE RESUME
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In this exclusive guide, you’ll learn the fundamental difference in what separates top candidates from those who go home without interviews and job offers. And this guide is completely free, just my gift to you—so you have nothing to lose.
Via Careerealism : Sick and tired of your cover letters ending up in the trash can? Then stop using the cookie-cutter copies!
Back in the “good ole days” before e-marketing took hold, I received a daily abundance of “promotional junk mail” along with the usual bills and occasional personal correspondence. One that was always fun was the letter from Publishers Clearing House. It always contained the same message…
“… and you [fill in name], are the only one in [fill in place] to receive this winning announcement!”
I may at times be a little gullible, but I wasn’t convinced that I was a winner. Clearly this was a form letter and the only thing that was changed was the name and location of the recipient. So, what does this have to do with finding a job?
Just like a Publishers Clearing House letter, the goal of a cover letter is to capture attention, generate interest, and inspire action. And, just like that Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes letter, most applicant cover letters are thrown in the trash. Employers aren’t gullible – they can spot a mass-mail template even when the writer “cleverly” changes the recipient’s name and contact information.
An Effective Cover Letter Is Not About You
The majority of cover letters are about the candidate and pretty much reiterate what’s in the resume. It’s as if the candidate is telling the employer, “If you’re too lazy to read my resume or miss the important stuff, let me tell you what’s in it.”
An effective cover letter is not about you – it’s about your understanding of the employer’s needs and what knowledge, skills, and experience you have in fulfilling those needs.
The following are some tips on how to craft an effective cover letter:
1. Read the job announcement
I mean REALLY read it; not just the requirements, but also the description of the company and the job details/responsibilities.
2. Highlight all the key words in the announcement
These are mostly nouns that represent specific skills, expertise, and credentials. The following are some of the keywords included in a job announcement for a Procurement Specialist:
- Buying strategies
- Purchase orders
- On-time delivery
- ERP system
- ISM certification
Be sure to include the appropriate keywords.
If you’re applying online, you can almost be certain that your cover letter is going through an ATS. And, as is the case with the resume, the ATS is looking for specific keywords. Be sure to include the appropriate keywords in your cover letter.
3. Identify which keywords you can feature in your cover letter
Use one or two brief illustrations of how you applied the selected knowledge, skill, or credential to help a previous employer solve a problem/make money. Here is an example (note the keywords):
“When first hired to manage acquisition and procurement for J&J Manufacturing, they had some serious problems with production and on-time delivery. They were using a manual system to track purchase orders and RFPs were gathering dust on the previous manager’s desk. Applying techniques I learned while pursing ISM certification, I immediately sat down with the management team to define and develop near and long-term buying strategies and put in place the company’s first ERP system. Within the first year of taking the helm, on-time delivery increased 45%.”
4. Promise similar results and request an interview
“I’m prepared to deliver similar results for XYZ Company and would welcome an opportunity to interview for this position.”
Ending a letter with “Thank you for your consideration” without specifically asking for the interview and stating when and how to reach you, may get you nothing more than “consideration.”
My last bit of advice for personalizing and customizing the cover letter is this: Leave no stone unturned.
Do everything humanly possible to get the exact name of the recipient. Call the company and ask. Check the staff directory on the company website. Research the company on LinkedIn. Tap your professional network. Leave no stone unturned. No one likes mail addressed to “Dear Sir” or “To Whom it May Concern.”
Yes, I know that some job announcements are “blind” leads and it is nearly impossible to know whose name to put on the letter. However, in most cases, a little extra effort on your part can really make the difference.