4 Great Tips for an Effective Cover Letter was originally published on Firsthand.
When you’re locked into a serious job search it’s incredibly important to stand out from the multitude of other applicants, as things can get pretty competitive and hiring managers won’t waste their time on dull and repetitive applications. One way to help yourself stand out is with a great cover letter, which just so happens to be today’s topic. So, without further ado, here are four strategies to writing an effective cover letter.
The Right Format
When applying for a job, your cover letter is your first impression. A quick glance at a cover letter that is poorly formatted can be enough to send an application into the trash, so being organized is imperative. Most likely, you’ll be sending your application via email, so make sure you include your name and the job title in the subject line.
If you’re sending out a physical application, make sure you’re using the standard business letter format. This includes the date and your full name and contact information, along with the employer’s contact information at the top of the page.
Whether it’s digital or printed out on a good old sheet of paper, keep your cover letter short and sweet. Try to aim for three paragraphs; one to introduce yourself, another detailing your skills and accomplishments, and the last explaining how you’d be a great fit for the position. If absolutely necessary, a fourth paragraph wouldn’t hurt, but try to avoid writing a cover letter that is too long. A good rule of thumb is to keep it around or below two-thirds of a page in length.
Customize Your Cover Letters
With job search platforms such as Indeed or ZipRecruiter, it can be really easy to apply for many jobs in rapid succession while using the same generic cover letter for each individual application. This might make you feel like you’re saving time, but when the hiring manager reads your cover letter and identifies the telltale signs of some not-so-slick cut and paste work, they’ll be less inclined to take your application seriously.
It’s best to take your time and tailor each cover letter to be specific for the job you’re applying for. Read the job posting carefully and make sure you mention any relevant skills you might have in your cover letter. This will show the hiring manager that you’ve put thought and consideration into your application, and that you didn’t simply click “apply” in a job search frenzy.
Speaking of frenzies, putting together all those custom cover letters will take up a whole lot of time, but that’s actually a good thing. If you’re on an Indeed rampage and clicking “apply” on every job you come across, it’ll be difficult to remember which company is which when you start getting calls back. The time taken by customizing each cover letter will help make each application more memorable, which will serve you well when you begin the interview process.
Build Upon Your Resume
A cover letter can help you provide further details about your experience and skills. Often, a resume will include bullet points that briefly explain your skills and achievements; however, with a cover letter you’ve got a little more breathing room, so you can include some examples of times where you used your skills to solve a problem or meet a deadline.
Following our nice format that we talked about earlier, try including some examples of situations where you applied any relevant skills after your introduction. Let’s say you’re applying for a job as a social media coordinator. In this case, you could include examples of any successful social media campaigns you ran, or how you grew your company’s social media channels. With examples such as the latter, you should include quantifiable data such as how many new followers were gained over a certain amount of time.
Let Your Personality Shine Through
Along with sharing information about your professional accomplishments, your cover letter is an excellent opportunity to show potential employers your unique personality. Hiring managers review a whole lot of resumes and cover letters, and there’s bound to be a bunch of generic or otherwise mediocre cover letters. If yours stands out, you’ll be far more likely to get an interview.
Do your best to avoid using stock phrases such as “To Whom it May Concern,” as they come off as wooden and robotic, and not only that—many of the other applicants will be using phrases like that in their cover letters. Thankfully, we know better and we’re going to do our best to write naturally.
When you remain professional but also avoid language that feels wooden or otherwise unnatural, you’ll come off as being a real person and not just a bunch of generic words on a page. If you demonstrate a polite, energetic attitude in your cover letter, the hiring manager will be more inclined to call you back, greatly increasing your chances at landing the job.
Lastly, try to find a contact person at the company you’re applying to. It would be beneficial for you to have a real name to add to the beginning of your cover letter, as it will make your application seem more personable. This is in stark contrast to the sea of applications that will arrive with “Dear Sir or Madam” slapped on at the top of the letter. Yes friends, a good cover letter will help you stand out, and might just be the key to finding a great job!