Updated June 5, 2023 . AmFam Team
It’s true what they say — looking for a job is a lot of work! From scanning job boards to tweaking your resume to preparing for interviews, it can feel like a job to look for a job!
But did you know one of the most important steps in the application process — writing a great cover letter — can set you apart early on the path to your dream job? In fact, a recent article shows 53% of employers still want them, and 49% of Human Resource managers think a cover letter is one of the best ways to boost your resume.
Let’s take a look at what a cover letter is and some tips for how to craft one that sets your resume apart from the crowd.
Think of a cover letter as your personal introduction — like sharing a little about yourself to begin a face-to-face conversation with someone you’ve just met. It’s your opportunity to briefly highlight who you are and what you’ve done and inspire further interest. Plus, it can help you connect with the recruiter or hiring manager, give insight into your communication style, and demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile to show you’re a strong candidate.
You’ll want to keep the tone conversational yet professional and include three core components:
While not all job listings request a cover letter, it’s highly recommended that you include one anyway. If there isn’t a place to attach it when responding to an online post, you can pair it with your resume in a single PDF document.
Ready to write a great cover letter? With the following cover letter tips, you’ll be on your way!
In today’s competitive job market, knowing how to write a cover letter for a job you really want could set you apart from other applicants. After all, first impressions matter, and since a cover letter may be the first part of your application a potential employer sees, you want to be sure it’s engaging, well-crafted and convincing.
Keep in mind, you have a small amount of space to accomplish a big task. You must be strategic. You’ll want to choose examples that uniquely capture your suitability for the role and accent the reasons you want to work there.
With these tips for writing a great cover letter, you can feel confident you’re taking an important step toward creating an attention-grabbing application.
This is a classic you-had-me-at-hello challenge! Hiring managers receive mountains of cover letters and resumes, so to put yours on top you’ll need an opening that quickly captures interest and makes them want to read more. Rather than a ho-hum “this is my name, and I have X years of experience,” think about more enticing ways to draw in your reader. For example, you might immediately state what you think the company will gain by hiring you. Or you could impress them by sharing something you learned about the company that makes you excited to join their mission.
Your career is composed of defining moments you’ll want to weave into your cover letter narrative. Again, you must be selective. The goal is to identify a few highlights from your experience and use them to craft a story that resonates with the qualifications noted in the position description. By using these “snippets” to reflect your individual journey, you’ll give insight into your personality and work style.
Your school days may be behind you, but there’s still homework! Take the time to investigate and gain a clear understanding of what the company does and its goals and priorities. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way in convincing a potential employer you see the position as more than “just a job” — it’s a career opportunity in which you’re willing to invest.
One of the best ways to establish a connection and underscore your interest in the position is to personalize your cover letter. Think about it — when you receive a letter or email addressing you by name, aren’t you more likely to pay attention? With a simple internet search, you may be able to find out who you should address the letter to and make an impression by using their name. If you can’t discover the recipient’s name, consider addressing the letter to the division or the department that’s hiring for the role, such as “Dear (Company Name) Product Engineering team.” Whatever you do, don’t use “To whom it may concern.”
You can spark a hiring manager’s attention by tailoring your application to demonstrate how you’d be an asset to the company. First, brainstorm and jot down highlights from your career path. Then put your list side-by-side with the job description and choose two or three experiences that shine a light on the characteristics or competencies they’re seeking. To successfully prove you’re a good match for the role, you have to first show you’ve got the skills and background to match the job requirements. Pro tip: Use specific keywords from the posted job requirements so, if the company uses filtering technology to scan for qualified candidates, your application will be flagged for closer review.
A well-designed, easy-to-read cover letter is succinct. Since space and time are at a premium, keep it concise — no more than three to four paragraphs fit onto one well-organized page. If your cover letter goes beyond one page or isn’t visually appealing, a busy hiring manager may not take the time to sift through it. They will appreciate your ability to edit and leverage your words wisely.
Here’s the rub: Tailoring your cover letter to each position you apply for takes time and effort. But here’s the payoff: A customized letter could motivate a recruiter to take a closer look at your application and, ultimately, schedule an interview. Use the company name, and reference how your background and abilities are well-matched to their specific needs — whatever it takes to communicate you’re already invested in them and motivated to prove your value to the team.
A company that launches a thorough candidate search will be more inclined to pursue someone who expresses a desire to grow with them. Share an accomplishment or skill that shows how you can contribute as the company works to solve current and future business challenges. It’s great to talk about your past experiences but put them in the context of what you can bring to the table to strengthen the company now and in the future.
Nothing says “hire me” like an error-free cover letter and resume. It’s one thing to make a generic statement about your efficiency and attention to detail — it’s quite another to demonstrate those qualities by proofreading your application materials before you hit submit. Scan your cover letter several times and ask a friend or family member to review it to be sure you have resolved any spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes.
A cover letter template is a useful tool to help you get started. It can keep your letter focused and make it visually attractive. If you used a template for your resume, there may even be a matching template for an accompanying cover letter. (If you combine the two documents into one pdf file, this will really give it a unified look.)
The templates for cover letters are as varied as those for resumes, so you’ll have choices. From college students to executive-level professionals, job seekers of all types can find an appropriate cover letter template through a quick internet search. Simply type “cover letter examples” or “cover letter templates” into your favorite search engine and you’ll discover a plethora of options to get you started.
Now you know how to write an excellent cover letter! By following these tips for writing a cover letter, you’ll not only gain an edge on the competition, but you’ll be one step closer to your next dream job.
And remember, we have career growth resources to support you along your professional journey — no matter if you’re looking for your first internship, changing careers or planning to start a new business. Visit us and be inspired!