When you apply for a job online, there are few sections that are marked with a little red asterisk beside them — Attach Cover Letter* is often one of them. Most companies require cover letters with job applications because they provide insight into who you are and how the skills highlighted in your resume will lend themselves to the position you're applying to.
Cover letters also communicate many subtler things, like how formally or casually you speak, what you value most about your career journey and how interested you actually are in the role — all of which might be considered to determine your culture fit for the company. Knowing what to include in your cover letter is extremely important because it's your first handshake, and a good one can help you stand out among other equally interested and qualified candidates.
But what happens if you're applying to multiple jobs? Should you write an entirely new letter of interest for each one? Luckily, the answer is no! There are several small things you can do to one letter to make it work for many positions. All you need are the following seven components, and some time set aside to tweak.
Peruse the company's website to find the hiring manager's name. It is only when you can't find a name, that you should ever use a general reference (which you'll learn how to do in the next step).
|Hiring Manager's Name||Constance Levine|
|Company||Build a Bridge Charter Schools|
|Address||718 Old Town Rd.|
|City, State Zip Code||Somewhere, OK 25914|
|Date||April 16, 2023|
|Your Name||Kendra Malone|
|Your Address||555 Cherry Dr.|
|City, State Zip Code||Elsewhere, OK 43724|
This step's simple — and it should be. In order to sound like you've done your research on the company, refrain from starting with "To whom it may concern," and opt to set the right tone with an appropriate salutation. Any of the following will do:
Now, it's time to get creative. As is the case with any engaging piece of writing, you want to hook readers in much the same. Set yourself apart from other candidates by telling a story that only you can tell.
If you want to recycle this cover letter across different jobs (and even industries), you'll want to think of an angle that's applicable to all your fields of interest. Maybe share how you discovered your professional passion or put us in the moment when you decided to change careers or return to work after a hiatus. You could even make your case from a different point of view, depending on the job and industry you're aiming for (like this woman who wrote her cover letter from her dog's perspective — and landed the role).
Once you've hooked your reader, move onto to describing what makes you a perfect fit for the role. Mention your applicable skills, education and expertise; talk generously about your relevant work experience; and showcase any major accomplishments and certifications related to the role you're applying to. This section should be no longer than 2-3 paragraphs.
You can qualify your candidacy by speaking the language of the field you're applying to. Field-specific words will often repeat, so pay extra close attention to the verbs on the job descriptions you're most interested in. Take, for example, the education field which favors language like taught, graded, proctored, observed, planned, created, etc. Popular vocabulary in the sales field includes managed, cold-called, increased, guided and tracked, while performing arts positions are interested in acted, scripted, designed, presented, studied and so forth.
Express your interest in the position one more time in the final paragraph, and include your telephone number, email address and/or a link to your website or portfolio. If you're applying to a mid-level to senior role, you can add your salary requirements to this paragraph or save the conversation for after the interview (if you want to discuss your range).
Those applying to entry-level positions, internships or anything of that ilk should not share their salary requirements, because a high range may lower your chances of landing an interview, or disqualify you altogether.
Wrap up your cover letter with a line or two of gratitude, and let the hiring manager know you're excited to hear from them. Then, it's time to close your letter.
Sign-off with any of the following phrases, followed by your first and last name:
It's crucial to reread your cover letter before sending it out to check for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you're reviewing your own cover letter, read it aloud. Reading aloud helps you focus on each individual word, making it easier for you to catch errors and gauge the flow of your cover letter.
You can also read from bottom to top. When you start with the last line and move up to the first, you allow yourself to see each line for what it really says, rather than what you thought it would. If you have a connection in the career space or even in a similar role to the one you're applying for, you can have them take a look to give you some advice.
When you're ready to reuse the cover letter, switch out the contact information to include the new company and hiring manager's information. Then, comb through the letter for any instances where you can replace one company's name with the next. Repeat the seventh step to make sure your attachment reflects the company you're applying to and don't forget to save the file under a different name to ensure you're attaching the correct version. Good luck!
Stephanie Nieves is the SEO & Editorial Associate on the Fairygodboss team. Her words can also be found on Medium, PayScale and The Muse.