3 Tips for Writing a Cover Letter When You’re Unemployed

crumbled cover letters

Canva / Fairygodboss Staff

Robin Madell for FlexJobs
Robin Madell for FlexJobs
July 14, 2024 at 1:58PM UTC
Many a hire is made after a recruiting team is “wowed” by a stellar cover letter. A cover letter is a potential door-opener to your dream job, and without an especially strong and effective one, your entire application may get filed away regardless of whether you’re the best candidate or not.
If you’re currently unemployed, your cover letter becomes even more critical to nail, since your livelihood depends on convincing a hiring manager to give you a shot at an interview. Here are the top three cover letter tips for the unemployed that can help you craft an unforgettable, written “calling card” that helps you reach your career goals.

Start with the job listing

The main thing that recruiters and managers are looking for in cover letters is something that shows them a candidate understands what’s required to excel in the position. In order to know this, you need to spend time studying the job and its description of responsibilities.
Many applicants make the mistake of focusing their cover letters solely on describing their background and general experience. While this is certainly important, these details won’t be as relevant to an employer if they’re not clearly tied to your explanation of how what you’ve done in the past will help the company that you’re applying for reach its goals.
To succeed at this step, break down each point that the job ad asks for, and tie these into your cover letter messaging. For example, if the ad specifies needing someone with project management experience, then make a point of writing specifically about what you’ve done in that arena. Then, show how your specific expertise will help the hiring manager and team accomplish their stated goals.
By using this approach as the framework for your cover letter, you’ll ensure that you’re hitting on the points that are important to the person with the power to hire you.

Quantify your successes

It’s one thing to use your cover letter to talk about past positions that you’ve held, but you’ll more effectively prove your expertise and ability if you can tie numbers and percentages to your claims. Quantifying your successes means revealing the actual numeric results that prove your department and company benefitted from your work or initiatives.
For example, if you’re an account manager, don’t just say that you made or saved your previous company money — get specific in sharing exactly how much money your ideas helped save. If it’s problematic to share dollar amounts in relation to your former organization, then use percentages to communicate the value that you added.
Another example is if in a former position you helped your department meet its goals quickly, don’t leave it at that. Instead, explain what the goals are that you reached, and include a specific time period.

Put a positive spin on it

If you’re unemployed currently or have had periods out of work in the past, you will likely need to explain any resume gaps. Think about positive ways to frame any time away from the workforce by noting any professional, volunteer, or job-relevant experiences and skills you may have gained, rather than simply logging this time as a goose egg.
You can get creative (to a point) with your explanations, as long as what you’re describing has some value in the job market, particularly to the company you’re applying for. For example, if while unemployed you organized a function or event at your child’s school (whether virtually or in person), this could legitimately count as requiring project management and time management skills.
Or, if you did some type of volunteer work for a community organization or attended a conference (even online) with skills you could use on the job, be sure to mention this as part of what you accomplished during your unemployment.

Write a stellar cover letter, land a job

There’s no time that your cover letter is more important than when you are out of work. Use the top three tips above to improve your chances of breaking through the noise of the competition and getting a new job you love.
This article originally appeared in FlexJobs. FlexJobs is the leading career service specializing in flexible work, providing the largest database of vetted remote and flexible job listings. To support job seekers in all phases of their journey, FlexJobs offers a range of services including expert advice, job search events, and career coaching. FlexJobs also works with leading companies to recruit quality remote talent and optimize their remote and flexible workplace.

What’s your no. 1 piece of cover letter advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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