Writing an excellent cover letter can help land you that dream job, but it also can be a painstaking and time-consuming process. Much of your effort will be to keep the letter well-written but brief.
If you follow a few smart procedures writing your cover letter can produce great results. You’ll want to craft a unique cover letter that helps showcase your individuality and value you can bring to that company. One of the purposes of your cover letter is to expand on an area of your resume that would be valuable for the employer, and also to drum-up excitement for the recipient to read your resume.
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to send a cover letter every time you send a resume – even when talking to a potential job hiring individual that says “just send me a resume.” By taking the extra initiative to send a cover letter when one wasn’t requested, it will help convey an air of professionalism, and can give you the upper hand over people that only send a resume.
Most purists believe that cover letters should not only be well-written, but also tightly composed into less than a page.
Craft a Unique Cover Letter – Every Time
When it comes to cover letters there is bad news and good news. The bad news is that you typically need to create a customized letter (if you want to get good results) every time you want to market yourself for a job opening. The good news is that if you are utilizing a word processing program like Microsoft Word, you can use the majority of the well-written information you’ve already created for each individual letter.
“One of the purposes of your cover letter is drum-up excitement for the recipient to read your resume”
Having to create an individual cover letter every time you apply for a job can get a little bit tedious, but when you think about it, it will improve the chances of getting in front of the potential job hirer, so creating a unique targeted cover letter is a must. It’s like the old analogy of ready – fire – aim vs. ready – aim – fire. The idea is that targeted job seeking is better than large generic “blasting.”
If you send out a boring generic cover letter that appears to be just copied and pasted from some website, that maneuver can actually be worse than sending a cover letter at all. The key when using information that you’ve “seen” from other good cover letters, is to make sure that you tweak the contents of the copy to make it appear to be 100% unique from you, and in terms of talking to the recipient.
There are many types of cover letters you might send:
- Most of the time you’ll create a cover letter targeting a company that has a specific job opening that you want.
- Sometimes you create a cover letter when a company is not advertising any current openings.
- Another great cover letter can be targeting a specific person (not a job), and the cover letter conveys that you would like some information from the recipient about industry information or info about a particular company.
Things To Consider
When writing the cover letter make sure it has an air of formality, but also make sure that has a natural look and feel, so that engages the reader/recipient to read as much of the letter as possible.
People that utilize a lot of personal touches can get great response with a cover letter, because it helps convey a very personalized visualization of you for the recipient.
Another need for personalization is that the resume will tend to have a more generic look and feel than the cover letter, containing a lot of educational history, work experience, and personal information.
Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
If you want to craft a phenomenal cover letter find some examples of phenomenal cover letters. There are tons of websites that have great examples of actual cover letters. Many of them have different cover letters tailored to specific industries. Start with doing a huge online search and saving the cover letters that seem to speak to you and your personality. When doing this online search keep in mind the more the merrier. Then copy and paste the good portions of each cover letter in a word processing program like Microsoft Word, and then you can start organizing and tweaking the letter to make it your own.
When searching the Internet for examples of cover letters some of the best examples you should try to find are letters that have some well-done humor embedded in the cover letter.
Another cover letter example you should look around for on the Internet is one that contains a short well-done story to help illustrate a point that you want to convey about yourself, your job experience, or your work passion.
Parts of a Cover Letter
The first part of the cover letter should convey the specific job that you want, essentially why you are writing the cover letter to the recipient (Someone suggested, you saw their job opening, etc…) Another purpose of the first paragraph is to engage the reader so that they read the second paragraph – and the rest of the letter for that matter.
“Personal touches can convey a very personalized visualization of yourself for the recipient”
The second part of the resume should give a very short summary of your professional career that is tailored to benefits for that particular company. Make sure to visually highlight the areas of the resume that the company would value the most. Another great maneuver is to use stories to arouse the curiosity of the recipient about yourself, your work experience, or your educational experience.
As for components of the ending, see “Ending” later on this page.
One of the best ways to get your foot in the door of a company is if you already have a friend that works at the company. He or she can give you the ins and outs of who you need to target for your job search, and keep in mind it might be multiple people. These “insider friends” can give you a visualization of the company’s structure and how others have gotten hired, so that you’ll have the inside track of landing the job.
If you know a person that works at the company, or someone that the job hirer knows personally, make sure that the name of that person is mentioned in the first paragraph. Preferably even in the first sentence. An example of something you might want to write would be “Sam Jones suggested I should contact you regarding…” This connection will set you apart from the other candidates who are applying for the job.
Send It To An Actual Person
If you don’t know who to send the cover letter to, make sure to spend some time and call/research to find out who is the hiring person, and address the letter directly to him or her. If you send a cover letter and resume randomly to the “human resources department”, you can bet you’ll quickly receive a nice generic thank you letter telling you that there are no openings at that particular company.
One of the biggest concepts to convey in the cover letter is your interest in the company or organization and the capabilities that you can bring to the table. The more you convey your potential value to the company – the better the cover letter. Also, the more that you can convey the fact that it would be in the best interest of the recipient to give you an interview – the better the cover letter.
Another thing to convey in the cover letter is that you’ve done your homework on the company and have a great deal of information on the company. So do your research.
When you’re creating a cover letter to respond to a job opening on the website make sure you use this as a blueprint for your cover letter with the job description and job qualifications.
Spelling and Grammar
When creating a cover letter make sure not to have any spelling or grammatical errors. Your aim is to be 100% perfect. Having just one error can be perceived as a glaring blunder in the mind of the recipient. Keep in mind that another function of the cover letter is to give the employer an example of your written communication skills, so make sure to put your best foot forward.
In the old days – thousands of years ago (a.k.a. the 70s, 80s, and 90s) – people would actually “mail” their cover letters and resumes to the intended recipients. In today’s world it has become increasingly acceptable to send this information via the Internet. Because of this, the cover letter often ends up being the information in the e-mail body, and the resume is attached to the email as a PDF or Word document (PDF is preferred). So as you are composing your cover letter in Word, realize that you will more than likely be copying and pasting the letter from Word into the message body of your e-mail.
Make sure in your final paragraph that you thank them for their consideration.
In the ending make sure to convey some sort of an action statement. You “look forward to hearing from them” is fine, but “I plan to give you a call next week” is better.
A good example of a final sentence might be: “I have attached my resume for your review. I would welcome a chance for us to meet sometime” or “I have attached my resume for your review. I will give you a call next week to follow-up.”
The importance of a cover letter increases and decreases with the size of the company you are targeting. When writing a cover letter for a position at a large corporation, it’s necessary, but not as important as when you write a cover letter for a position at a small mom and pop company.
You can spend a lot of time improving the cover letter, but you can also spend a lot of time sweating over it. One of the best tactics is to write your cover letter and then shelve it for a couple days. It’s remarkable how that when you give you mind a rest glaring grammatical problems will become obvious, along with areas where your wording is unclear.
Also ask some friends and people’s opinion you value to read and proofread your letter. They may open your eyes to problems and solutions you didn’t think about. They may alert you to the fact that you’re conveying too much of a “hard-sell.” You don’t want to sing your praises too much.