Cover letters are a necessary evil. Most people hate writing them and some hate reading them even more. Although there are grumblings that they will soon be obsolete, you still need one with every application. Fret not, though, because we’ve got your back!
1. The cover letter is primarily about the potential employer. How will the company benefit from hiring you (not vice versa)?
3. Keep the letter to one page unless answering specifically requested questions.
4. If someone referred you, mention that right upfront.
5. Research the company and the role so that you can address what excites you about working in this capacity.
6. When you write a cover letter, tailor each letter to the company and job. Think about the specifics of the job description and what this role will do for the prospective employer, especially with you in it.
7. Connect your background and your skills and accomplishments to the position immediately to entice the reader to keep reading.
8. Always use keywords from the job description and company media materials in your letter (and resume or CV). If the job description lists specific skills required for the role, be sure to include those same skills in your letter, as long as you’re keeping it honest. A well-written resume should list your skills and accomplishments, and a great cover letter will artfully weave them into a larger story about what your qualifications are, you can bring to the company and the role.
9. Have someone (ideally more than one someone) proofread your letter. Proofread it yourself, too — at least three times.
10. The first paragraph should answer how you found the role — whether someone told you about it, if you’re contacting the company and applying out of the blue, etc.
11. The second paragraph should answer why this company. Why are you applying to this job, specifically? What is appealing about its work, the industry, and potential projects?
12. The third paragraph should answer what you bring to the role. What about your qualifications and your past experience makes you a good fit, and how do these things align with the company mission? An effective cover letter will demonstrate that you understand the job description and the employer’s needs, and will show how and why your past accomplishments and your work experience make you a great candidate.
13. It’s OK to send a cover letter even if there is no job posted. Think of it as a sales pitch and solve the company’s problems.
14. Show rather than tell what you've done and how it relates. You have more space in cover letters than you do in resumes; you can say something like, “In 18 months, I drove my team’s revenue from $1 to $5 million by revising our entire account management system. Let’s make lightning strike twice and create that level of growth at [prospective employer].”
15. It helps to actually want the job so that you can be both passionate and authentic.
16. Keep the formatting consistent (i.e., do not write DC and then D.C.).
17. Imagine the potential employer is only going to spend about 30 seconds on your letter. While cover letters can provide more in-depth information than resumes, they should still be lean and relevant.
18. A good cover letter should complement your resume or CV, but not be a direct copy of it.
19. Start with a strong opening line that intrigues the reader to continue. Nix the “I am writing to apply…”
20. Immediately connect to the role or the company mission by saying something like, “Austin is my home. I was born here and intend to stay. Making the wonders of this city accessible to all has formed the basis of my career.” This was for an organization supporting low-income groups in Austin.
21. Be bold and likeable. This is your first impression so have it count.
22. Find a contact within a company so that your application gets past the screening stage.
23. Always send a cover letter even if one is not explicitly requested.
24. Look on LinkedIn to see how people at the same employer or in similar roles describe their work.
25. Check out the employer’s social media feeds to get a sense of the values, culture, and tone for your letter.
26. Ask someone working in the same field or, better yet, the same company to vet your letter.
27. Let specific examples from your past work demonstrate how you can exceed the expectations of this position.
28. A personal story can be very compelling, though it should be directly applicable to the position.
29. Do not call attention to areas of weakness (e.g., “While I do not have direct [X] experience…”). Instead, spin your background positively, yet accurately.
30. If you have a significant gap in your work history or are pivoting careers, mention it but quickly move on to why you are a great fit for this role (e.g., “After running my own consulting practice for the past five years, I am excited to return to the corporate world.”).
31. While much of job searching is out of your control, you determine what to convey in your branding materials, including the cover letter.
32. Sending the letter in the body of an email, rather than as an attachment, increases the likelihood that someone will read it.
33. It’s important for a job seeker to be consistent and sharp. Use the same letterhead for your resume and cover letter so your materials look uniform and professional. You can leave off your street address in favor of name, email address, and phone number.
34. The more numbers or results you have to communicate your success, the better!
35. Conducting informational interviews with people in the industry or company of interest provides great insight for your letter.
36. Discuss how you will tackle challenges and projects affecting the employer or the industry. A good cover letter might say something like, “Given the sheer number of companies entering the [X] space, it will require ingenuity and courage for [employer] to maintain its top status…”
37. If the online application system does not offer space for a job seeker to submit a cover letter, attach one to your resume or submit an additional email.
38. Make it easy for the reader to pick out the salient points and see how you’re a candidate who will add value immediately because you have relevant work experience.
39. Instead of dreading writing the cover letter, use it to tell a convincing story about how your skills, creativity, and appreciation of the company empower you to succeed.
40. Go through your letter and reframe 80% of the sentences that start with “I.” Remember it’s about the company, not you.
These cover letter tips will help you write a cover letter that will land in the hands of a hiring manager and score you an interview for your dream job.
Elana Konstant is a career coach and consultant focusing on professional women in career transition. A former lawyer, she founded Konstant Change Coaching to empower women to create the career they want. Change is good. Elana will help you find out why. Her career advice has been featured on Glamour.com, Babble, Motherly, and other outlets. You can learn more by visiting her website, konstantchangecoachin
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