The best cover letter of all time is not a work of a famous author. It isn't an awarded literary masterpiece either. However, a cover letter does present a person and narrate his story. It's a short half-page novel that tells who the character is and how he works.
Writing a cover letter might seem like a daunting chore if you're not really into letters. However, a cover letter isn't a book. It's more like an email where all you have to do is explain a few key points. And you do write emails, right?
We're not talking about writing a two-page essay here. In fact, the shorter the cover letter, the better. An excellent letter comprises no more than 10 sentences and half page.
You don't need to be a famous writer to create the best cover letter of all time. All you need is a few simple rules. Let's get started.
Why You Need The Cover Letter
First of all, yes, cover letters do get read. How carefully hiring managers read is questionable depending on timing and the individual recruiter. Long letters carry a huge risk of getting just a glance, but no hiring manager minds reading a brief half-page story. Especially if the resume of the same candidate is put together perfectly.
The cover letter is your opportunity to EXPLAIN how you solve problems.
Since a good resume is only a page long, it needs a convincing companion. That's your cover letter—the story behind your resume's key points.
A good cover letter should be short, but if you apply for hundreds of jobs, writing a unique cover letter for each will overwhelm you. This might tempt you to write single generic letter, change only the company name, and send it out for every job opening that matches your profession.
Do that, however, and your resume and cover letter will very likely get deleted by an ATS system or the recruiter himself. It will seem irrelevant as spam.
According to an ERE Survey, each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes and of these candidates, only 4 to 6 are called for an interview.
Never use the same cover letter for different job applications.
This is not a rule—it's a piece of advice (if you don't want to be skipped over for that amazing job opportunity). Instead of sending generic resumes and cover letters for every single company, concentrate on the ones that appeal to you the most.
Find five good companies. Tailor a resume for each one, and then customize a cover letter to accompany each. The next day, find five more. Stop sending broad resumes and template cover letters to random companies. Your goal is to get a job that you really like.
So you found an amazing company that offers a position made just for you. Before sitting down to write your cover letter, research the company. Check out the job you're applying for. Spend some time reading over the company's website, especially the latest news. You should like the company and it should meet your expectations.
The Core of the Cover Letter
As you research each of the top five companies you've chosen, ask yourself:
- What can you tell about the job?
- What benefits can you offer to the company?
- How does your personal goal fit with the position or company?
- What excites you about the company?
Don't start writing your letter until you've answered these questions.
A cover letter briefly explains two key points only: your strengths and how they can benefit the company.
Follow these two key points. Building on the information in your resume, be as specific as you can about your skills and qualities and how they match the company's needs.
You Only Need Four Paragraphs
"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."
- Blaise Pascal.
The shorter the letter, the better the results. Use the business letter format with the typical heading: the date, your name, and the contact details for you and the recruiter. This is important in case your cover letter and resume get separated from each other in a huge stack on the recruiter's desk.
Cover Letter Format Guide One-Two-Three:
- Don't use less than a 12-point font.
- Use 1" – 1.5" margins.
- Use the same font you used on your resume.
The First Paragraph
Who are you?
The opening paragraph should:
- State which position you are applying for.
- Illustrate how you are suited to the role.
- Be short and to the point.
Give a brief idea of who you are and tell the employer how you learned about the opportunity. Mention how your career goals align with the company's goals.
The Second Paragraph
The benefits you bring to the table. Why you?
Paragraph two should tell Mr. or Ms. Recruiter why she/he should be interested in you. Highlight a few high-value points from your resume that match the job description. Offer a few stats to illustrate your impact in previous positions.
Why are YOU suitable for the job? What about your previous job experience, skills, and abilities meets the company's needs?
The Third Paragraph
How You Can Help the Company?
Use the information you gathered in your research. Emphasize how you can help push the company forward to achieve THEIR goals.
Outline your career goal as it relates to the position you're applying for. Match your skills and experiences with skills and experiences required by the job.
The Fourth Paragraph
The last paragraph should bring the letter to a polite conclusion. It should also STRESS ACTION. Finish strong and quickly. Remind the recruiter what you introduced in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs (how your experience or skills will help the company).
That's the point of the cover letter: a call to action. Inform the recruiter that you'd love to get interviewed too. But be careful – if the last paragraph goes longer than that, you're just rambling. You weaken your call to action.
Example: "I hope to have an opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss how my skills could contribute to [company name]'s goals. Respectfully yours, [your name]."
9 Tips to Beef Up Your Cover Letter
Four paragraphs are enough to introduce yourself, your results and techniques. Use this easy structure, but don't miss the point of the cover letter, which is to show how your strengths can benefit the company.
If you haven't missed the point and you do follow the script, your cover letter will turn out looking very professional. To make yourself look even more competent, follow these nine well-proven tips as well:
It goes without saying – don't make grammatical errors. It makes an awful first impression. Half of all resumes and cover letters are thrown out when a single mistake is found. But typos are easy to make. The best way to definitively catch typos is to read your letter backward.
Again, remember: NEVER use the same cover letter for different job applications. One cover letter per company. Period. If you send 100 generalized resumes and template cover letters, companies will just see them as spam – and spam is deleted. Believe it. Concentrate on unique cover letters for top five companies per day.
The cover letter shouldn't be identical to the resume. Use your cover letter to describe additional details that you couldn't squeeze onto the single page of your resume. A cover letter gives you the freedom of full sentences rather than bullet points, so use them to tell the story of why you're the perfect fit for the company.
Address your letter to an individual. Include the hiring manager's name with "Mr." or "Ms." Nix the bland "Dear Hiring Manager" or "To Whom It May Concern." Nothing could be more generic. Be as specific as possible! Use the company's website or LinkedIn to find the name of the head of the department for the position you're applying for or the name of the hiring manager.
Clearly state what you're capable of. "Determine the key requirement and priorities for this job, and make it instantly clear to the reviewer that you can deliver the goods on these key things," says Jenny Foss, job search expert. Go through the job description and underline the keywords. Consider using such power words as active.
If you don't have experience, focus on your skills instead. Also, many new graduates make the mistake of over-focusing on their educational backgrounds. What interests hiring managers most is your work experience (volunteer or internship experience counts).
Don't apologize for skills or experience you don't have. Focus on your strengths.
Use a few numbers. In the job market, numbers often speak louder than words. Just as in your resume, offer some statistics to illustrate your impact. Numbers show you understand what a company is looking for in an employee: results.
Start with a draft or template. Getting started is half the battle, so don't get stuck on a first "perfect sentence." The second letter will be better than the first. Once finished, you can edit, proofread, and rewrite.
"Kill your darlings, even when it breaks your little scribbler's heart."
- Stephen King
A Couple of Tricks to End On
If you're still having trouble putting together effective sentences, consider a few writing tricks to make yourself stand out.
1. Trick: Wiring guru Alexandra Franzen offers a simple mind trick that might help: pretend. She says, "Pretend that the person you're writing to already loves and respects you. Pretend that the person you're writing to already believes that you're worthy and valuable. Then, write. Your words will come out so much easier."
2. Trick: Imagine you're someone else writing a letter about yourself, someone else who wants to say why you're a perfect fit for the company. It's like a writing a reference for yourself.
Writing letters might not be part of your daily routine, so it might be hard to get started or even feel like you can do a good job. Do it anyway. The cover letter is the only tool you have to let a recruiter see your personality and explain your skills.
Write, delete, edit, proofread, and you will get much better results than retyping a single broadly-worded template. Remember, recruiters invite only four to six candidates out of 250 applications, so use the quality instead of quantity. No two companies are the same. Show how you can benefit this particular company and solve its problems.
The best cover letter of all time is not the work of a famous author. It is the work of an ambitious person who feels passionate about the opportunities. It's an honest story about a person who finally found the job of his dreams.