You grab your computer and start typing away.
Date. Salutation. Now what?
Not a writer? Been a while since you wrote more than a few lines in a rapidly fired text? Or just a bit rusty? Wondering what is the latest and greatest in cover letter writing advice?
Here is the good news.
The norms around what constitutes a good cover letter haven’t changed all that much in recent years. Yes, it is still required and expected by hiring managers and recruiting professionals. No, you shouldn’t just write an abridged e-mail version (unless specified as the preferred method in the job posting). Yes, it must be professional (I know you want to get creative…but please, not here!) and be convincing -- to get to the next stage you have to show that you are the best candidate for the job.
Sounds doable, or still a bit confused? Don’t worry. Just follow these 4 general guidelines and you’ll be sure to draft a stand out letter that gets your foot in the door in no time! And if you are still struggling, take heart -- a professional cover letter writer is only a phone call away.
1. Do Your Research and Get to Know Your Audience
You will have a much easier time writing, and getting your point across, if you first get to know your audience. Of course you’ve read the job description. But do you know how the role fits within the overall framework of the company? What problems will you help them solve? What are their pain points?
When you know your audience, you are able to better customize your message. And that is something you always want to do when you are applying to a new position. It may be tempting to submit the same cover letter to multiple employers, but beware – it’s easy to see through – and it’s a sure way the letter ends up straight in the waste basket!
What you are looking to do is make a connection, ideally as soon as possible. Show the company you have invested time in getting to know them. Always try to address the letter to an actual person (hiring manager, department head, or at the very least the HR person who made the posting), instead of typing the standard “To Whom It May Concern”.
Customize, speak directly to your audience, and address how you will solve their problems, not the other way around!
2. Tell a Story that Grabs Attention
People are drawn in by other’s stories. And what better way to draw the hiring manager in than to tell them a story that they connect with.
It’s easy to rattle off a list of your accomplishments and skills, or just regurgitate whatever is on your resume. It’s harder to tie those into a coherent storyline. But that is exactly what you want to do. Show how your background, skills, and accomplishments fit in with what the company needs. Create a short narrative that shows how what you have done (use a couple of specific examples!) led to tangible results and, preferably, quantify those results. Then, indicate that you can achieve those kind of results in the new position.
3. Be Enthusiastic and Honest
What’s the best tone for the letter? I think this goes without saying. Excited!
Hiring managers are looking for people who’d love to work at their company. If you are feeling lukewarm about the company or the position, do yourself and them a favor, and keep looking. Faking it in the cover letter can only take you so far as well. Eventually, if you make it to the interview phase, your true feelings will be much harder to hide.
So, convey enthusiasm and be honest. When you are authentic and genuinely think you’d be a great addition to the company’s team, writing the words on paper will come that much easier. And not only that, but you will be able to genuinely carry over that message when you do score the interview.
4. Be Brief
Research shows that over 70% of managers prefer a short cover letter, about half a page or just a bit more. A full page is considered the limit. Hiring managers are busy people and don’t have time to read through lengthy applications. Most positions receive 10s if not 100s of cover letters and resumes. That is a big pile to get through!
Save the hiring manager some valuable time and get straight to the point.
You are the best person for the job, and in three short paragraphs, this is why it’s obvious!