Finding a job is no easy feat. Finding a job that you enjoy is even harder.
One of the first steps you can take towards finding the right job is making sure your cover letter is strong, and that it sets you apart as an impressive candidate. As the old saying goes, “first impressions are lasting impressions”, and your cover letter is your first chance at impressing a potential employer.
In your cover letter, you need to highlight your skills and experiences in a way that best supports your resume. Ensuring that your cover letter serves you and your job application may seem like a daunting idea at first. But once you have the perfect introduction to yourself and your working experiences, your application will be better rounded. And, it will help you get your foot through the metaphorical door.
Not sure where to start? Take a closer look at these seven mind-blowing cover letter tips to highlight your skills and experiences in all the right ways.
- Customize Your Cover Letter For Each Job Application
Creating a unique cover letter for every job application may be tedious, but putting in the effort will go a long way towards helping you secure the right job.
Recruiters and hiring and HR managers are quickly able to tell if job applicants have written generic cover letters that are vague enough to be used for numerous job applications. This doesn’t really impress them, as it’s clear that applicants aren’t willing to go the extra mile. A generic cover letter also highlights a lack of interest in a specific role, and instead can make it appear as if you’re simply submitting your resume for any position that arises, without giving it any thought.
To avoid the generic trap, take the time to customize your cover letter to fit each specific job you apply for.
The easiest, most effective way to do this is by looking at the job advertisement, and matching your qualifications to the listing.
- Study the job listing carefully.
- Select two or three skills, experiences, or abilities the job requires, and you’re confident you can match.
- In your letter, provide real examples of times or situations where you were able to clearly demonstrate each of those skills.
Be sure to include keywords from the job listing in your cover letter. For example, if the job description says that the candidate they’re looking for has experience with data-driven decision making, provide an example or two of situations in which you evaluated data, and used it to drive decisions to solve a problem.
Another crucial addition to any effective cover letter is a demonstration of your personality. Showcase your personality in a way that heavily implies you’re the perfect fit for the position you’re applying for.
For example, if the job listing mentions the company is seeking someone with a “can-do attitude”, write about a time you really applied yourself or your skillset to reach a challenging deliverable.
Customizing a cover letter for every job you apply for is a lengthy process, but it’s important to make the time and take the effort. Not only will it help a recruiter or potential employer see that you are a good match for the job, it will also go a long way in helping you reflect and determine whether or not certain jobs are a good match.
- Use Your Cover Letter To Your Full Advantage
Using your cover letter to your advantage may seem like an obvious point. But the mistake many people make when drafting their cover letters is that they don’t really use them to their full advantage.
Cover letters are there as a means of introducing yourself to the company you hope to work for. It’s one of the most important tools you have when applying for a job, as it gives potential employers insight into everything that you can offer their business. It gives them insight into you as a person, rather than just an overview of your qualifications, past employment history, and skill set.
As a rule of thumb, your cover letter only needs to include the highlights and achievements of your career. Do not use it as a means of apologizing for anything. For example, if you lack a required qualification listed on the job ad, don’t mention it. Instead, make a point of focusing on the skills and experiences that you do have, and explain how they make you an excellent fit for the role.
The key to a successful cover letter is making it work for you.
As much as you should stay away from listing what you don’t have, you can also use it to explain any recent gaps in your work history. For example, if you’ve been laid off and are out of work due to reasons beyond your control, mention this. Over the past year, many people have been laid off for a number of reasons, including the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Use your cover letter to explain any employment gaps you feel need to be justified. However, be sure to only keep it to a brief mention before returning to your key skills and abilities.
- Go Beyond Your Resume
One crucial mistake that many job applicants make is that they treat their cover letters as another version of their resume.
No one wants a duplicate of your resume as a cover letter.
Try to avoid this at all costs. Instead, turn your cover letter into something more specific that can serve as evidence of what you can bring to the company.
Include how your skills, qualifications, and experience will help you fulfil the role better than any other candidate.
Begin by picking two to three skills or abilities that you wish to highlight, and offer solid examples of times when you were able to fully demonstrate those traits. Including real-life scenarios with provable results demonstrates that you’re capable of fulfilling the role.
For example, if you are applying for a teaching or tutoring job, highlight any experiences you have working with children, or even include examples of teaching moments that were particularly successful. These examples are what will make your cover letter different from your resume.
Wherever possible, be sure to include numbers that demonstrate how you’ve added value to previous companies you’ve worked for. However, if you are a recent graduate, or don’t have much working experience, try to highlight some of your transferable skills. Mention any special projects, classes, scenarios, or volunteer work that you feel best displays the fact that you have the necessary skills to meet the requirements.
- Seek Out A Contact Person
To whom it may concern is boring, outdated, and generic. Avoid it as far as possible.
Do your best to determine who your cover letter should be addressed to. This adds the personal touch and highlights your efforts at customization.
Finding a contact person isn’t not always easy, but it will go a long way in making your application stand out. It’s worth spending the time trying to find the right contact person, because when it comes to cover letters, the personal touch is really important. Find out as much as you can about the company as well as the hiring manager. You are appealing to their human side, after all.
Make sure that you’re able to address your cover letter to the hiring manager who’ll be sorting through the applications for the role you’re applying for. If you don’t know who that person is, try your best to find it on the company’s website. However, if this fails, call the company and ask. If you have exhausted all your options determining what the hiring manager’s name is, address your letter with the greeting “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear HR Manager”.
If you have any direct contacts at the company, if anyone referred you for the job, or is willing to put in a good word for you, be sure to mention their name and role in the first paragraph of your letter. This is an excellent, effective way to gain your potential employer’s interest. Just make sure that you have checked with your contact in advance, and they’re happy to provide a referral if asked.
- Format Your Cover Letter Correctly
Your cover letter should not only include the correct information, it also needs to look polished and professional.
For this reason, you need to format your cover letter properly so that it best serves your application, and helps it stand apart.
Here are some tips on how to create a clear, concise format:
- If you’re sending a physical letter, use business letter format. Be sure to include your contact information, the date of your application, and the contact information of your potential employer at the top of the letter.
- If you’re sending your cover letter as an email, include a subject line that mentions your name and the title of the job you’re applying for.
- Make sure that your cover letter is no longer than a page of three to four paragraphs at most.
- Don’t overdo it with the font you use. Be sure to pick one that is simple, clean, professional, and easy to read.
- Unless the job application specifically asks for a photograph, don’t include one.
- Be Yourself
When writing your cover letter, you want to be professional and clear about what you have to offer a prospective employer. However, there’s a difference between being professional and being overtly formal, especially when the situation doesn’t call for it.
Try to avoid writing anything that doesn’t feel natural to you, such as “Dear Sir or Madam” or “I wish to express my interest in this position at your esteemed institution”. Instead, make a point of using clear, straightforward language.
Write as yourself, whether applying for a position as a restaurant manager, accountant, high-level manager, or any position whatsoever. If possible, use industry jargon that highlights your knowledge of the sector. Stay away from overused, cliché phrases that most hiring and HR managers are probably getting tired of reading, and replace them with more powerful words. For example, instead of saying that you are a “team player”, use a phrase like “keen collaborator”.
When writing your cover letter, it’s important that you come across as polite and professional, but not fake. Be true to yourself – after all, if you’re successful in your application, you’ll be spending a lot of time in an environment with the same people who read your cover letter.
Authenticity is key.
Avoid using any language that feels too corny or uncomfortable. Rather let your personality shine through while still retaining the professionalism you would in the role you applied for.
- Proofread And Edit Your Cover Letter
Nothing makes a bad impression like poor punctuation, incorrect spelling, or grammatical errors.
Hiring managers may look at hundreds of applications for just one position, so a small typo can make or break your chances of success. Make sure that before you submit your job application, you have proofread your cover letter, along with all of your other relevant submissions.
Before submitting your application, read through it thoroughly, and look for any spelling or grammar mistakes. Make sure that you’ve listed the correct company name, the hiring manager’s name (if you can find it), and the correct date in your letter. An easy way to check for mistakes is to read your letter out loud and listen carefully to what you’re saying.
If possible, consider asking a friend or family member to read through your cover letter. Get them to check for any errors, and to provide feedback – a fresh set of eyes can do the world of good. Ask them whether or not they see you as a great fit for the position you’ve applied for. If not, consider rephrasing or rewording your cover letter to achieve the desired effect.
Be Your Best Advertisement
Think of your cover letter as an advertisement for your professional persona, and your resume as your marketing strategy. Highlight your skills, provide a clear picture of yourself and your capabilities, and tell potential employers exactly why you’d be a valuable addition to their company.
An awesome stand-out cover letter can be the difference between securing your dream job, and missing out on a golden opportunity.
Lee Anna Carrillo is a community manager at Resumoo. A resume writing service, and career resource database. Resumoo is owned by Ranq Digital LLC, a marketing and media company located in Charlotte, NC