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Why a Cover Letter is Important
A well-written cover letter significantly improves the chances of your resume being reviewed by employers because it gives you the opportunity to:
Convey your interest in the position and the organization. Your resume might do a great job of summarizing your education, skills, work experience and achievements, but it doesn’t give you much room to show your passion for the work and your enthusiasm for the job. A cover letter, however, gives you the real estate to tell employers the specific reasons you are applying for a particular job at their particular company. It’s your introduction to an employer, and what better way to get a hiring manager’s attention than to make them feel special with your enthusiasm for — and knowledge of — their company and the job.
Demonstrate your value and personality. Cover letters give employers a glimpse of the person behind the letter. Virginia Martinez, director of talent recruiting at IDEO, says cover letters help her see the differences between applicants because they provide insight into what makes individual job seekers unique.
Describe specific aspects of your related experience. Furthermore, a cover letter allows you to address concerns from your resume, such as employment gaps, a string of short-term jobs, or the reason you are switching careers. They also give you the chance to detail why those experiences add to your qualifications and expand on achievements you’ve highlighted in your resume.
Consider Your Audience Before You Write
In order to make an impact, you’ve got to think about who will be reading your cover letter. Chances are, your audience will include the following:
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Many hiring managers and recruiters often make use of ATS software, which acts as a gatekeeper for employers. An ATS initially scans and sorts cover letters and resumes for those that match a job’s required skills and experience, and weeds out those that don’t. Using keywords specific to the company, job description and the position in your cover letter helps these systems find you so you can get in front of a recruiter or hiring manager, according to professional headhunter Nick Jones.
After an applicant tracking system sorts applicants for basic qualifications, recruiters rate and rank candidates for interviews. They look for the best of the best, scanning cover letters for achievements, awards and unique skill sets, according to career expert and former recruiter Vicki Salemi. When writing your cover letter, be sure to point to successes and how you can apply them to the job at hand.
Once your cover letter gets into the hands of busy hiring managers, they will likely assume you meet the basic qualifications for the job. They will look for details that show you’ve done your research about the company and the position, according to experienced hiring manager and career expert Heather R. Huhman. They also want to know how your past experiences apply to the job and what kind of results they can expect from you.
Sections to Include in Your Cover Letter
A professional cover letter includes the following sections:
The header contains your contact information, LinkedIn page link and/or website link.
Your LinkedIn page allows a hiring manager to review your testimonials and work experience at a glance. Your website should be relevant to the job position, not your hobbies.
The salutation is where you address employers politely and professionally. Don’t use generic terms, such as “To Whom it May Concern.” This is your first chance to impress hiring managers, so show your interest with a personalized greeting. Do some research to find the hiring manager’s name and address them directly, using formal conventions. For example, “Ms. Jane Smith,”.
The middle paragraphs are where you talk about your job-related skills, experience and achievements and how you will use them to help the company succeed.
Closing and Call to Action
The closing is where you summarize why you’re the best candidate. The call to action invites the hiring manager to contact you or states that you’ll follow up with them.
The signature is where you respectfully sign off. Conventions include “Sincerely,” “Thank you,” and “Best wishes,”.
5 Tips for Writing a Winning Cover Letter
Eager to start writing your cover letter? We’ve compiled a list of the best tips to help you get started.
Research is crucial when writing your cover letter. You must learn about the prospective employer so you can speak to how you’re a possible match. Career consultants like Michael Page say that someone who makes an effort to find out more about a company and shows this in their cover letter is preferred because they show commitment.
We advise you to review every part of a company’s website, including its blog, check out its LinkedIn page for relevant recent business information, and Google any news articles or press releases that help you contextualize your candidacy for their business needs.
While conducting your research, look for the following:
What product(s) or service(s) do they provide? Learn about their current products and services and what they intend to launch, and think about how you can assist with their plans.
What is the company culture? Do you feel you’re a good match for their culture?Find out if the culture is more on the creative and innovative side or more conventional and conservative.
What are the company’s values, challenges, mission and goals? Find out if you share common interests and values. Do you feel you could support them in achieving their mission and goals?
Who are their competitors? Learn about their current or emerging competitors. If you’re familiar with their competitors, this will be helpful to share in your cover letter.
Customize your letter for the employer
Once you’ve done your research, you’re ready to customize your cover letter for your target company. You’ll impress a hiring manager if you demonstrate how you will help further the company’s mission and goals.
Demonstrate your value, by providing answers to such questions as:
How would you help to meet the company’s goals? For instance, if a retail business or manufacturer wants to expand their sales operations, share examples of your related achievements.
How would you help to further their mission? For example, if you’ve learned that the company wants to expand its charitable outreach to non-profit organizations and you’ve worked for non-profits, highlight this experience.
How would you help to support their values? For example, if you’ve learned that the company wants to expand its charitable outreach to non-profit organizations and you’ve worked for non-profits, highlight this experience.
How can you help them solve a problem? Demonstrate how you can provide a solution to a company’s problem that you may have discovered through your research.
Employers want to know precisely what you bring to the table. Provide specific examples, including facts and figures. Career consultant Jodi Glickman recommends candidates convince an employer that a role is a perfect fit for them by providing related stories and anecdotes. For example, how many managers have you supported, how many sales have you made? Did you create a new process that helped the team or the company be more efficient?
Show your excitement for the job or company
A great way to stand out from the competition is to show enthusiasm (but don’t go overboard!). Doing so helps employers envision you in the role and helps to create a sense of connection between you and the hiring manager. While researching the company conveys interest, sprinkling powerful and dynamic words, such as motivated, moving forward and thrilled, for instance, emphasizes your desire to work for the company. The Houston Chronicle recommends starting with the first sentence. So if you’re thrilled at the idea of working at a start-up, let the company know right away in order to grab the hiring manager’s attention.
Use the Right Format
Hiring managers expect to see cover letters in a particular format with the proper margins, fonts, spacing and elements. and no longer than one page for quick and easy reading. Your cover letter may be rejected if it’s too wordy or the typeface is illegible. And keep it short. Talent acquisition manager Margaret Buj suggests keeping it to three-quarters of a page in length. One way to think about it is if you only had 15 seconds to tell the prospective employer what they needed to know about you, what would you say?
Writing Cover Letters Checklist
Research the company.
Customize it for the employer.
Show your excitement for the job and the company.
Use the proper format.
5 Common Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid
You’re taking the time to write a thoughtful letter to hiring managers, not only to complement your resume, but also to introduce yourself in a way that shows your personality, interest in and unique qualifications for the job. You want to stand out — in the best way possible. Don’t ruin your chances by making these five common mistakes:
Rehashing your resume. Don’t even bother if this is your plan. Recruiters and hiring managers barely have time to read your resume once, so don’t waste your time (or theirs!) by writing it twice. The point of writing a cover letter is to show employers who you are and what you can do for them by diving deep into key pieces of your resume, filling in gaps when needed and tying your qualifications to their needs.
Writing a generic letter. In order to get noticed, it’s critical to tailor your messaging to the company and the position. Think about it: Does a letter written with a personal message for you, addressed to you directly, resonate more or less than one written for anyone but addressed to you? Probably more. The same holds true for a cover letter. Take the time to learn about the company’s history, goals and culture, what the job means in terms of the company’s success and how you fit. Employers will be impressed.
Focusing on what you want or need over the employer’s needs. The company is looking for the best candidate to help them solve a particular problem, so your letter should focus on them and what you can do to help with their needs. Present your qualifications in a way that shows them you are the answer to their wishes.
Having misspellings, grammatical errors and typos. Proper grammar, good spelling and typo-free sentences convey to employers that you are detail-oriented, care about how you present yourself, respect them and want the job. Always proofread your cover letter, and then proofread it again.
Being too wordy. Like poor grammar, misspellings and typos, long letters and wordy paragraphs will turn employers off. “Awkward and wordy sentences will discourage a hiring manager from reading the entire cover letter and will make a poor impression before the reader gets to the resume,” notes employment advice company Palladian Career Resources. So don’t bore employers: Keep your paragraphs — and your cover letter — crisp, concise and to the point.
Cover Letter Writing FAQs
Why Do We Write Cover Letters?
You should write cover letters because cover letters significantly enhance your resume by sharing details about your background. Also, you can create a narrative of why you are the right choice for the position. When you learn how to write a good cover letter, you significantly increase your chances of landing an interview.
How Do I Write a Cover Letter If I’m Underqualified for the Job?
The secret of how to write a cover letter when underqualified is to focus on your transferable skills and excitement about the job. After all, the strongest letters don’t simply list qualifications. They paint a picture of a passionate applicant who will bring value to the team.
How Do I Write a Good Cover Letter for my First Job?
Use your skill set, class projects, and testimonials to build a compelling case for yourself. Show whatever experience you can, even if it isn’t from prior jobs. Applying for your first job can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, you don’t always need a lot of experience to get hired; passion and determination can go a long way.
Whom Do I Address the Cover Letters to If I Don’t Know Their Name?
If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, address it to the “[Job Title] Hiring Manager” or to the company. These customized salutations are much more impactful than a generic one such as “To Whom It May Concern.” Addressing is a simple but important part of how to write a good cover letter.
Where Can I Make a Cover Letter?
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