How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter

In today’s job market, you need to make a strong first impression from the start to ensure you stand out. This can be challenging when you apply for jobs online. Who you are as a person is reduced to an application, resume, and cover letter. This means you need to jump off the page to stand out from the other applicants. This guide will walk you through the process of writing the perfect cover letter to help you move to the next phase of the hiring process.

Have a Solid Structure

Before you start writing your cover letter, it is smart to understand the basic elements. You need to have all of the pieces in place for a complete cover letter. You can then arrange them on the page to create a cover letter that is complete and visually appealing on the page. If you struggle to format your cover letter, looking at templates can be helpful. Look at how the templates arrange the elements on the page and decide what looks best to you. Ultimately, you want your cover letter to be clear, concise, and easily scannable. Don’t get overly creative, and don’t be afraid of leaving white space on the page.

Contact Details

The whole point of your cover letter is to convince the hiring manager to contact you for an interview and move to the next step in the hiring process. They can’t do that if they don’t know how to get ahold of you. This means you need to include your contact details.

  • Name
  • Address (or City, State with zip code)
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Traditionally, this was the only contact information that you needed to include. However, modern cover letters will also include online professional links. You shouldn’t include long, messy website links. However, if they are short and simple, you can include them. For example, your LinkedIn profile, an online portfolio, or a personal website are all good links to include.

It’s also good form to include the contact details of the intended recipient. Think of these two sets of contact details as the sender and recipient addresses on an actual mailed letter.

Greeting

A cover letter is just that, a letter. The proper method of starting a letter is to address it to someone. Your cover letter is no different. You should address your cover letter to the person who will be reading it. This could be the hiring manager or someone else.

Opening

The opening of your cover letter needs to grab attention and state who you are. Be direct and concise. You want to set the tone and purpose of the cover letter clearly.

Body (1-2 paragraphs)

The body of the article is where you will state the who, what, where, when, and why of your job application. This is where you will include your most compelling arguments. Showcase your accomplishments. Talk about your future career and how it relates to the company’s open position. Highlight the value you bring to the role. Wherever possible, use measurable data and results to validate your claims.

Closing

The closing of your cover letter should repeat your interest in the position. Wrap up how you can benefit the company in the position you are applying for. It should list any other documents included in your application. Then, it should close out with your call to action. Use a professional salutation followed by your name.

Formatting

The design and formatting of your cover letter should match your resume. This means using the same type and size of font. Typically, the font should be between 10-12 point, making it large enough to easily read without being too large. Create visual breaks in the text to make it scannable. Place your contact information in a way that makes it easy for the hiring manager to find.

Customize

Do not use a template you find online or a past-used cover letter without customizing it. Templates are good for giving you a place to start. However, they do not specifically speak to the open position or your qualifications. Past-used cover letters may speak to your skills. However, they do not speak to how your skills apply to the new position you are applying for.

Research

Before you start writing your cover letter, do your research. Look up the company online and learn more about it. You can use this information in your cover letter to address the company’s current pain points or accomplishments. Speaking directly about the company makes your cover letter more personal. It also shows that you are serious about the position by putting in the extra effort to research beyond the job listing.

Determine Tone and Style

Keep your cover letter professional yet approachable. You don’t want to be too formal or too informal. However, there are exceptions to this. Some industries and companies do require a formal tone. At the same time, others are more accepting of a more casual tone.

If you are unsure of the best tone, a safe approach is to determine the company’s voice, tone, and style. You can find this by reading the company website, blog, and social media. Then, learn about the job you want to apply for. Adopt a voice and tone that matches what the company uses. This will help you seem like a good fit for the company’s brand image and internal culture.

Keep It Short

A cover letter should be a short introduction to who you are. While most people can easily write a book about themselves, this is unnecessary. Keep your cover letter to less than a page. Anything longer, and it will likely never get read. Hiring managers have a lot of cover letters to sort through, so be respectful of their time.

Address Your Cover Letter

While it is highly recommended that you address your cover letter to a specific person, it is not required. Personally addressing your cover letter feels more personal. It can also grab the reader’s attention if you are one of the few who took the time to find out who the hiring manager is. If you don’t know who the application will go to, you can try doing some research to identify them. Look on the company website or on LinkedIn to see if you can find out who the hiring manager is. Another option is to call the company and simply ask. If you can’t readily find out who to address your cover letter to, then it’s okay to use one of these more generic greetings. 

  • Dear Hiring Manager
  • Dear (Department) Team
  • To whom it may concern

Strong Opening Statement

Hiring managers will sort through and read a lot of cover letters. You want yours to stand out, grab their attention, and make them want to keep reading. Consider the first sentence your hook. Avoid humor, as this is risky. If the hiring manager doesn’t share your sense of humor, it can fall flat or feel unprofessional. If you have a personal connection to the company, this is a good place to mention it. Another option is to make a strong claim about what you can do for the company.

Another option is to say something topically relevant to what the company is currently going through. This strategy works well for larger companies that may have press releases or news articles written about them. You could also comment on industry developments or news that could impact the company. Taking the approach of speaking to the company shows that you took the time to research. You went above and beyond the average applicant.

Compelling Professional Statement

The compelling professional statement is the meat and potatoes of your cover letter. This is where you will include the most compelling and important information. Your resume should speak to your past education and professional experience. Your cover letter should speak to your future. Hopefully, with the company you are applying to.

Avoid generalized, broad, or vague statements. Focus on creating value by using quantifiable accomplishments. This does not mean talking about all of your achievements. Instead, stay topically relevant by highlighting the achievements directly related to the advertised position. For the greatest impact, focus on specific job position challenges for which you can provide solutions.

Don’t Highlight a Lack of Experience

If you are applying for a job you do not meet all of the qualifications for, don’t highlight this in your cover letter. This puts forth an argument as to why you shouldn’t be considered for the position. Instead, focus on your strengths. Highlight your knowledge and skills that will help you exceed.

Strong Closing Statement

Finish your cover letter by making a strong statement. If the hiring manager has made it this far, you want to close out on a good note. The goal is to sound professional but not overly eager or desperate. Stay in line with the voice and tone that you have used throughout the rest of the cover letter. Clearly state that you want an interview. Thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration. If additional documents or files are included with your application, mention them now. This highlights to the hiring manager that you included more information about yourself and your qualifications. Typically, this consists of a resume, but can also include a portfolio or work samples.

Call to Action

You want the hiring manager to contact you for an interview. Use the call-to-action strategy that marketing professionals use. At the end of your cover letter, include a call to action that invites the hiring manager to call or email you. This will increase the likelihood that they will reach out. Another strong strategy is letting the hiring manager know you will follow up on your submission. Remember, your call to action should sound confident but not desperate.

Professional Signature

Your professional signature at the end of your cover letter is how you close it out. Keep this part of your cover letter simple with “Sincerely,” “Best,” or “Regards.” Follow it with your full first and last name.

It’s best to write your cover letter in a word processing program and save it as a PDF. This makes it easier for the hiring manager to save and print. It’s also easier for you to edit it for other applications. When emailing your cover letter, check your email signature. You don’t want to have an auto signature automatically included that is for your current position.

Optimization

Many companies use software to manage applicant files. This software will have screening services that help quickly narrow the field to the top applicants. Typically, this is done by comparing the job description and requirements to the applicant’s cover letter and resume. 

Review the job description and look for repeated use of keywords and phrases. Then, incorporate these naturally into your cover letter. This will trigger the algorithm to find a match with your application.

Proofing

Your resume and cover letter are the first impression you make. So, they should show the quality of work you are capable of. This means your cover letter and resume should be free of spelling and grammar errors. If glaring errors are present, it shows a lack of attention to detail. Some hiring managers will see this as a sign of the quality of work you will produce once hired.

It is helpful to run your cover letter through multiple editing services. One may catch something that another doesn’t. Once you write your cover letter, put it down for a day or two and then come back to reread it. Your brain will catch errors that you don’t see when writing it. You can also have someone else read it to give their opinion on the cover letter.

Write a Strong Cover Letter

Having a strong cover letter and resume is a must to help you stand out among a large applicant pool. Applying to job positions online means you need to put yourself on a page. This guide will walk you through the process of writing your cover letter. Start by researching, customizing each cover letter, and carefully reviewing it for submission.

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