Preparing a cover letter isn’t easy. The process, for most, is often riddled with nightmarish manifestations of uncertainty, followed by cursed proclamations that—unsurprisingly—don’t seem to articulate the seeming futility of the whole thing. You’re probably here because you’re at your wit’s end. But fear not! Even for the most experienced writer, the task can be an arduous undertaking; simply knowing how to write won’t capture the interest of hiring managers. But, by knowing how to write the perfect cover letter you’ll be able to arrest their interest and, as a result, be one step closer to landing your dream job. While we won’t write your letter for you, we’ve put together a compact list of 5 Cover Letter Writing Tips that’ll facilitate the process and help you stand out. So grab a pen and paper, a fresh cup of coffee, and roll up those sleeves: we’ve got work to do.
1. Don’t Repeat Your Resume
Unfortunately, for many, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Your cover letter is meant to be supplementary. If your resume is your story, then consider your cover letter a concise yet detailed synopsis. A resume is, by definition, rigid. It’s a factual document that exhaustively lists your applicable experiences. By its nature, it’s set up to be informative, boring, and—worst of all—devoid of personality. A well-written letter, on the other hand, adds the necessary touch of personality otherwise absent from your work history.
So, how do you talk about your resume without repeating it? By focusing on and interpreting your qualifications for prospective hiring managers. Ideally, you want to show that you’re a strong match by demonstrating how your previous experiences will help you succeed in the role. We will touch on this in greater detail later, but for now, it’s worth being cognizant of. Too many job seekers will copy and paste their resume or simply restate, reword, or repeat. Don’t do this. If you do this already, stop. Instead, market yourself and your credentials. Generally speaking, hiring managers will be able to tell from your resume how your skills and accomplishments can be applied to the job in question; your cover letter should do this before they even have a chance.
2. Do Your Research
Before you begin writing the perfect cover letter, it’s highly recommended that you research the company you’re applying to. We can’t stress enough how important it is to write with a particular company’s ideals and goals in mind. As such, when explicating your credentials, you should align yourself accordingly. This is easily accomplished by catering your successes and the benefits you afford to a company’s core values. Every company is different, so while having a template is useful, make sure to cater each new cover letter appropriately. Moreover, it’s important to understand how each company utilizes the position you’re applying for and the given requirements of that role. Although similar, seldom are two positions identical. A firm grasp on the expectations required of you and how you anticipate meeting them can help further sway things in your favor.
As an added Cover Letter Writing Tip bonus: if possible, research the hiring manager. There’s no guarantee that he or she may be looking at your application, but sometimes it can be beneficial to understand what they themselves are looking for.
3. Be Concise, Be Dynamic, Be Unique
When writing an effective cover letter, it’s paramount to keep it focused. Be cautious of writing too much or being particularly verbose. While it’s hard to gauge how much is too much, a rule of thumb is to write a few paragraphs, but never more than a page. While writing too little can be problematic, it at least stands the chance of getting read. If you write too much, hiring managers might not even bother.
The cover letter is an opportunity to market more than your resume. But tread delicately. While you’ll want to stay clear of being too formal, it’s important to balance maturity with personality. By concisely detailing your merits, you’ll be able to say more with less. A good way to arrange your letter is by breaking distinct points into separate premises and grouping your qualifications behind each premise. In other words, think of the ways you can help a company and break those into their own unique propositions. Then, defend your claims with your accomplishments. It’s a simple way to stay organized and present something that’s easy to read and digest. Finally, be unique. No one likes a cardboard cutout, and certainly no one wants to work with one.
4. Display Personal Value / Demonstrate Capability
As we mentioned earlier, in order to write the perfect cover letter, you’ll want to humbly demonstrate how hiring you isn’t just a good idea—it’s the right idea.
While there are numerous ways to go about this, one technique is to call to attention previous work experience and apply it, beneficially, to the position you’re applying for. It’s one thing to simply state your capabilities (that’s what your resume is for), but it’s something else entirely to exhibit them as a narrative. But remember, this is a synopsis—a sort of snapshot—and as such, you don’t have a lot of room for exposition. Like any good story, it’s important to provide context, but don’t stray too far from what’s ultimately necessary. If you have to, write more and then trim the fat. For each letter you write, the appropriate or applicable experiences will be different. No matter the case, don’t waste room and use up precious paper space with experiences that are incongruous to the position and company.
Many companies aren’t just looking for good workers anymore: they’re looking for good workers who also happen to be good thinkers. Qualifications are a must, but what separates one candidate from another with similar and sometimes even better credentials is his or her aptitude for problem solving. New job seekers, as if it is somehow indicative of real world success, have a tendency to flaunt their degree and cling to the laurels of their major. But because this information shows up on your resume, we recommend leaving it out entirely. Instead, regardless of your experience, demonstrate how you can help solve potential (or current) problems. Try focusing on a recurring problem that is unique to your position—and the industry—and detailing the steps you took to navigate beyond or transcend it.
5. Close Once, Proofread Twice
Have one strong closing statement, punctuate it with a period, and be done. This is your call to action. Too often writers will make a statement in the middle of their letter that would better serve as a concluding remark. In addition to ruining the flow and pace of the letter, this also negatives the impact of your final sentence. Contrary to your school days, we advise not summarizing or repeating what you’ve already said. Instead, aim for a unique, resolute identifier that will linger with the hiring manager.
Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. OK, so that’s three times. But you should proofread your letter once, have a friend, family member, or colleague read through it once more, then you should proofread it again a day later. While a second set of eyes can pinpoint most grammatical errors and inconsistencies, stepping away from your writing grants a return with a fresh perspective. Make any necessary changes, and proofread once more for good measure. Congratulations, you’re finished!
We hope you found our cover letter writing tips useful. Preparing a cover letter shows initiative and interest that hiring managers will notice, and knowing how to write the perfect cover letter will get you one step closer to securing your next job. Good luck on the interview! Worried about that too? We’ve previously discussed three interview tips to help get you started.