Ask a college graduate what their goal is after college, and they will tell you they want to land a job and hopefully make six-figures per year one day.
Follow up the previous question with a question related to structuring their cover letter appropriately, and that same college student might look at you with a blank stare.
Now, this doesn’t just go for college students; many adults do not know how to create a well-structured, professionally written cover letter. Even though some experts like LinkedIn editor Andrew Seaman advocate that “many cover letters are left unread,” there is still the high probability that you will want to have one handy.
That is why today, we will go over how six-figure earners structure their cover letters to meet your mark of a $100,000 salary sooner!
How to structure your cover letter
First, when crafting the perfect cover letter, start with the purpose of the cover letter. Your cover letter is like your resume in that it communicates who YOU are, but different in that it allows you to shine as a form of direct communication with a hiring manager.
An effective cover letter quickly lets the reader know why you’re qualified for the position you’re applying to and how you can effectively fulfill the role you apply to.
In short, here is a quick list of what you should do and what you should NEVER do (according to high earners) when it comes to your cover letter:
1. Be specific
Don’t start your cover letter by saying, “To whom it may concern.”
Suppose you want to increase your chances of having your cover letter read and, more importantly, having the hiring manager flip over to your resume. In that case, you will want to write a cover letter that addresses several essential items explicitly:
- Specifically, address the hiring manager by name or at least the department head (who most likely does the hiring). You can use things like LinkedIn or if you know someone within to figure this information out.
- Clearly state the position you’re applying for right out the gates, don’t leave it up for interpretation, which can confuse.
The first two bullets above are essential, and the early approach to your cover letter should be less is more. One other point to note would be including how you came across the job when applicable.
2. Effectively communicate your value
Linda Spencer says “you need to communicate your value when you write your cover letter.”
According to the associate director and coordinator of career advising at Harvard Extension School, Spencer teaches that you must answer two fundamental questions hiring managers are looking for:
- Why YOU are the right fit for the job.
- How can you add value to the company?
High earners know that written communication is key to making the big bucks, and a well-written cover letter indicates your ability to communicate effectively. However, the cover letter’s point is to get your resume read, thus landing an interview.
This means separating yourself from the pack.
To do this, always make sure you proofread your cover letter and ask yourself, “Did I address the two most important aspects of my cover letter – why I am the right fit and how I can add value?”
Use this simple litmus test every time, don’t underestimate written appreciation!
3. Customize your cover letter every time
This should go without saying and perhaps fall under the “Be Specific” category, but it’s worth repeating: Always customize your cover letter for the specific position you’re applying to!
An experienced hiring manager quickly spots general, vague language. They can tell simply based on formatting and some of the words you used to custom-tailored your cover letter for the specific job.
For example, if you apply to a sales job and use a cover letter from a marketing position, some of the jargon may appear out of place.
Now, don’t create a new cover letter every time; instead, use your base cover letter and customize it appropriately for each position and be sure it answers the two essential questions from before. The two essential questions may vary depending on the situation; thus, customization is key to landing your interview!
4. Avoid resume regurgitation and show appreciation
Resumes and cover letters both serve different purposes.
While sometimes we might want to list our accomplishments or experiences on our cover letter – those who earn the most recognize your cover letter helps prime the reader before reading your resume.
And considering this factor, when you read something that seems regurgitated, typically you move on and quickly become bored. Translation, don’t list your resume on your cover letter. This should go without saying, but it’s a point worth noting as many people include things like, “I have ten years experience in IT Sales” in their cover letter in an attempt to entice the hiring manager.
Almost everyone applying for the job will have experience (if required), and it is already listed on your resume. Remember the two fundamental questions, and don’t get into the habit of listing or bullet pointing on your cover letter.
Lastly, it’s essential to recognize that your cover letter should convey your gratitude for the opportunity, position, and the reader’s time. Keeping in mind that your cover letter should be one page only, wrap up your cover letter by thanking the hiring manager for their time, reiterating why you’re a good fit for the position, and signing your name.
— Michael Dinich
This article originally appeared on Ladders.