Famous career columnist Joyce Lain Kennedy, author of Career Now, once said, “the resume focuses on you and the past. The cover letter focuses on the employer and the future.” In this digital generation, you may begin to wonder if cover letters are still necessary. Although most job seekers neglect them, writing a cover letter can make a difference when you want to stand out! It provides you an opportunity to impress your employers by quickly summarizing the value that you would be adding to the company. Just stick with this definite guide and learn how to write a cover letter like a pro!
What are cover letters
Cover letters are formal letters commonly attached to resumes and curriculum vitae when applying for jobs. These letters serve as your first step in explaining who you are and how you would prove to be a valuable addition. Its purpose is to gain your employer’s attention and make them interested in going through your resume.
A great cover letter should showcase your personality, the qualities that make you right for the job and explain your credentials to impress your employers.
Why is writing a cover letter important
Regardless of how advanced our generation becomes, recruitment remains the same. Writing a cover letter can make up for the imperfections in your resume and help you land an interview. These are said to help improve your image when your credentials are not good enough.
A significant number of 83% among hiring managers, HR staff, and recruiters include cover letters in their employment decision making. Because cover letters are often optional, applicants usually take them lightly. Employers, on the other hand, think otherwise. 72% of them prefer and expect to receive cover letters even if they are made optional.
Recruiters also use cover letters as a basis on whether an applicant is worthy of an interview or not. Resumes and cover letters are equally important and play a vital role in creating the image you want your recruiters to see you.
Elements of a cover letter
Before writing your cover letter, you first need to understand the significant elements of a cover letter. Understanding the different functions of each component will help you write a great cover letter.
The topmost portion of your cover letter is called the header. The header consists of your contact information as well as your address. Make sure that your header includes your name, email address, phone number, and home address.
When writing your recruiter’s information, use accurate and complete information to ensure formality, and express your knowledge.
Your opening salutations or greeting is one way to differentiate yourself among other applicants. Knowing who you’re sending the letter to shows your employers your interest and dedication to the company. There may be instances where no name is available for you to address. In this case, it is best to use a general term or position, such as ‘Hiring Manager’ or ‘Director’ to maintain professionalism.
The cover letter introduction is the most critical portion of your letter. It will determine whether your employer will be reading your cover letter or not. The introduction should consist of the position you’re applying for, where you heard about the hiring, and a general overview of your cover letter’s contents. It should also include your necessary information and your reason for applying.
Your cover letter’s body should contain supporting details on why you’re perfect for the job. It should focus on how you’re are fit for the position, and how you can benefit the company by being there, how your skills and experience can help the company attain its’s vision and goals.
Only discuss those worth mentioning to avoid a long cover letter. Focus on selling yourself and sharing the advantages of hiring you. You can attract your employer’s attention by including relevant events or situations where you’ve shown your problem-solving skills. Explaining your contribution to previous projects’ successes can also help impress your recruiters.
Your conclusion should be able to summarize your interests and align yourself with the company’s goals. Your cover letter should cater to the company’s needs and how they can benefit from hiring someone like you. Do not forget to request for action on your application before closing.
Similar to your opening salutations, closing your cover letter should be done formally and professionally. Using unnecessary signatories may give the wrong impression. Some appropriate signatories include; ‘Sincerely,’ ‘Best Regards,’ ‘Respectfully,’ ‘Thank You,’ and ‘With Thanks.’ End your closing salutation with your complete name and a printed signature.
6 Useful tips for writing a cover letter
Now that you’re familiar with the types and parts of a cover letter, you can now begin writing your own. If you’re still struggling to write a great cover letter, listed below are a few steps that can impress your employers.
Include your contact information
Only include the necessary information that is related to the position you’re applying for. Make sure that you use a professional email and not an informal one. You can add a link to your portfolio or other social media sites relevant to your application. Address your cover letter to a named individual as much as possible to show them your eagerness and efforts to work with them.
Write proper salutations
In greeting your addressee, avoid using an automated salutation like ‘To Whom It May Concern,’ or ‘Greetings.’ These generic salutations will give off an impersonal feel that may give the wrong impression during your application.
The best way to address someone professionally is by using ‘Dear’ as an opening before using their proper honorifics such as ‘Mr/Mrs,’ ‘Dr/Professor,’ or ‘Sir/Mam,’ followed by their first and last name (e.g., ‘Dear Dr. John Smith,’ ‘Dear Mrs. Jane Doe,’).
If you don’t know your addressee’s gender, simply drop the honorifics and greet them using their first and last name (e.g., ‘Dear John Smith,’ ‘Dear Jane Doe,’).
When no name is available, then address the letter to the hiring office or position (e.g., ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ ‘Dear Director’).
Avoid using gender-neutral salutations and research about who your addressee is as much as possible.
Write a strong introduction
As mentioned earlier, your cover letter introduction will determine whether your employers will finish reading your cover letter or not. This portion should be able to hook your readers.
You can pique their interest by showing your personality or passion for the company through writing. Express how grateful you are for the opportunity of applying and your excitement to work for them. You can also mention a relevant past achievement you had to make your cover letter introduction attention-grabbing. Do not forget to use the right tone despite showing your personality through your cover letter.
Do not forget to sell yourself
A great cover letter is the one where it convinces the employers to interview the candidate. You can do that by relating yourself to the company as much as possible. Focus on your compatibility with the company while highlighting your relevant skills and experiences. Including praises from your boss or co-workers from work can also help you impress your recruiters.
If you lack the professional experiences, you can always mention your extra-curricular activities or academic achievements relevant to your application. Praises from your classmates or teachers on your principles and personality will also look good in your cover letter.
Provide call to action
Requesting an interview in your cover letter closing will indicate that you are confident in your skills as a prospective employee. Maintain your tone throughout the letter and thank your employers for considering your application.
Don’t forget to be respectful when asking for an interview and when mentioning that you’ll follow up on your job application. Expressing your excitement in working with them can help your cover letter appear more appealing to your employers.
Before sending your cover letter, you need to make sure that you’ve maintained your tone and appear confident. Check for any possible mistakes grammatically or not. Ensure the accuracy and relevance of your information before finalizing it. You can also ask your friends or colleagues to review it for you if you still feel unsure.
5 Different types of cover letters
There are a lot of instances where you’ll be needing a cover letter. Some of these instances are when you’re applying for a job, referring someone to something, and many more. Listed below are some of the different types of cover letters perfect for your every need.
An application letter is a letter that expresses your intentions for applying for a job. It is the more traditional cover letter that is sent together with a resume or curriculum vitae.
Referral Cover Letter
A referral cover letter mentions your interest in the job and includes a person who introduced you to the position. Having someone refer you will significantly increase your chances of getting hired, especially when they are famous in your field or acquainted with your employer.
Letter of Interest
A letter of interest or a prospecting letter shows your interest in working for a particular company instead of a specific position. It asks your employers about prospect job openings or hiring opportunities.
A networking letter is similar to a letter of interest but only with a broader scope of recipients. It inquires about job openings or asks for employment advice and assistance for any company. These are often addressed to colleagues, professional acquaintances, or employment-related social networking sites such as LinkedIn.
Value Proposition Letter
A value proposition letter is a short message that focuses on the unique traits that give you an edge among the rest of the candidates.
Best practices for writing a cover letter
If you’re still uncertain how to write a great cover letter, here are a few dos and don’ts that can help you decide how you want your cover letter to appear. Listed below are also some etiquettes to follow when it comes to sending your cover letter.
- Keep the letter simple and straightforward, and avoid any unrelated information.
- Write a letter to promote your application accurately.
- Include the requirements of the job and relate them to the skills you have in your attached resume.
- Minimize each paragraph to three sentences.
- Always use action words when telling a story in the cover letter.
- Keep the message brief and concise.
- Make the letter distinguishable from other applicants.
- Minimize it to a one-page letter while those sent electronically are made shorter.
- Send an original copy of the letter to your employer.
- Be confident in your writing without being boastful.
- Maintain honesty and accuracy in the information you include.
- Use sexist greetings when answering blind ads or if you’re unsure of your employer’s gender.
- Write a dull introduction that may bore your recruiters.
- Use cliche lines or wordy sentences.
- Brag on your achievements. If you do, employers will have the wrong impression about you.
- Depend on the employer to reach out to the applicant, make the first move after sending your application.
- Forget to include your resume when sending your cover letters to avoid miscommunication.
- Recycle your cover letter when applying for different companies or different positions.
5 Examples of cover letters
You will need a better picture of how a complete cover letter looks before writing one, presented below are some examples. You can use the following as your reference when you start to write your cover letter.
Referral Cover Letter
Letter of Interest
Value Proposition Letter
There is no ‘one’ way to write a cover letter. Regardless of the type and purpose, these letters are made to be personal between you as an applicant and the recruiter. Treat your cover letter as a pre-interview before the real thing.
Employers will base their treatment towards you, depending on how you treat them in your cover letter. They are made not for you but for the recruiters who want to know who they should hire for their company. Follow the Resume Guy blog and stay up-to-date with the latest trends in recruitments and talent acquisition.