In the age of digital recruitment, do you really need to write something to accompany your CV or your application? Is Writing a Cover Letter Really Important?
The short answer: Yes!
Yet all too often job seekers view the cover letter writing process as an afterthought before submitting a resume. Or they don’t bother to write one at all.
Your cover letter is your introduction to a potential employer. It’s also an opportunity to make a great first impression and show why you would make a great hire. So don’t waste it.
These days, a cover letter like your CV, would be something you would print and mail to a hiring manager. In fact, it may not be a letter at all. The most savvy job seekers manage to include the modern equivalent of a targeted cover letter somewhere in the body of an email or online application.
Take a look at these tips for writing a cover letter that will convince hiring managers and HR professionals to call you for an interview.
Don’t just rehash your CV
What is the first thing to know when writing a cover letter? Your words should do more than rephrase the salient details of your resume. This is where you need to promote yourself, describe your ambition, and express your enthusiasm for a new role and business in a way that is separate from your resume.
Check out this brief checklist of the important functions of a targeted cover letter:
A cover letter specifically links your skills and experience to the job description and qualifications requested.
This explains why you would like to have the job in question.
It shows that you have researched the company, commenting on its mission or key leadership.
It ends with a call to action that invites the hiring manager to follow up with you regarding the job opportunity.
The barrage of information reaching us all today has created shorter attention spans than ever before. Cover letters are no exception. Managers are often inundated with applications, so saving words is important.
In fact, go for a three paragraph format, with each paragraph focusing on one aspect of your application.
Start with a catchy introduction that expresses your enthusiasm for the job and the company. If you have a reference, drop their name here.
This is your sales pitch where you discuss your key skills, accomplishments, and attributes, and explain why your qualifications relate to that particular role or company.
Finally, briefly reaffirm how you can add value, thank the hiring manager for their consideration, and take the next step by saying that you want to follow up with a call or interview.
For more details on this last paragraph, read about how to write a cover letter to finish.
Tailor your cover letter to a specific job
Do not use a single cover letter template for all the positions you apply for. If you do, you’re missing the point: only a letter focused on the job at hand will make a positive impression.
Write a cover letter that employers can’t ignore by linking it to the elements of the job that match your unique skills and experience. What do they ask for that you are particularly good at? What would make your contribution unique? These are the points to emphasize when writing a cover letter.
Equally important, gather facts and figures that support your claims. For example, if you are applying for a managerial position, mention the size of the teams and the budgets you have managed. If this is a sales role, describe the specific sales goals you have achieved.
In addition to showcasing your talents, you can further personalize your cover letter by demonstrating your knowledge of the specific industry, employer and job type.
Be proud of your past accomplishments
Businesses want confident employees who enjoy their jobs. They know that these are the people who tend to perform better, become stronger members of the team, and have the greatest potential for growth with the business.
Draw attention to specific examples of projects you’ve worked on that make you an ideal candidate, and don’t hesitate to brag a little about your most relevant accomplishments.
Speak personally to the hiring manager
How would you feel if you received an email addressed to whom it may concern? Just like you customize your resume for the job, you should also address the cover letter to the person who is currently hiring for the job, as opposed to Dear Employer. If it’s not specified in the job posting and you can’t find it on LinkedIn, be proactive and call the organization’s primary phone number and ask for the name and title of the hiring manager.
If you are still in school or have just graduated, your career services office may be able to help you identify the right contact at a company.
Use keywords from the job description
Many employers use resume filtering software that searches for keywords and assesses how well resumes and cover letters match preferred skills and experience. This means that your cover letter should incorporate key phrases that you identified in the job description – if they honestly match your background and strengths.
During the writing process, carefully review the job posting for the type of degree required, number of years of experience required, software skills specified, organizational and communication skills, and management background project.
Give figures and examples
One way to make your cover letter stand out is to show that you have had a measurable impact on an organization. Did you attract new customers, make the process more efficient, run campaigns? Provide specific numbers, percentages to show growth, or a range or estimate to quantify results.
Providing examples can also help you illustrate what you have achieved or clarify details. Show, don’t say, if possible, when describing what you have done and what you can bring to your next job.
More dos and don’ts when writing a cover letter
- Don’t share too much – Showing a certain personality is usually good, but stay focused on your career. Stick to the relevant facts and omit personal details unrelated to your ability to do the job.
- Don’t go overboard with self-celebration – Employers expect job applicants to use the cover letter for bragging rights. (That’s the whole point, isn’t it?) Instead of bragging about being the “best UX designer in the world” or a “marketing superhero,” job seekers should provide concrete information that conveys value and impact. Bold statements are okay, as long as you back them up with facts.
- Don’t make requests – Focus on what you can do for the employer, not what you hope to make from the business. It’s both presumptuous and off-putting to cite wage demands before you even pick up a phone or video interview. The same goes for presenting the benefits and perks that you expect.
- Be sure to follow the instructions – Employers often provide specific instructions in the job posting, such as submitting your resume and cover letter in a certain file format or by referring to the job title or application number. Before uploading your letter or hitting the submit button, review the job posting to make sure you’ve done everything the employer has asked you to not set off any red flags.
Proofread your work
Last but not least, once you are convinced that you have made a solid case for your application, it is time to proofread your work. Once you’ve polished your letter, ask a friend or family member who has a keen sense of typos and good grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills to revise it. Include a copy of the job posting to make sure you’ve hit all the right points.
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