Your cover letter is an opportunity to impress. Get it right, and a hiring manager will open your beautifully crafted resume with relish and a sense of optimism. Get it wrong, and they’ll open it grudgingly, or not at all. Even in today’s digital world, cover letters in whatever form remain as relevant as they’ve ever been. Here’s how to get yours right.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a brief introductory summary of your qualifications and interest accompanying your resume. It presents the reader with an overview of your current responsibilities, followed by accomplishments that indicate your qualifications for the position. The goal of the cover letter is to refer yourself and your resume so that you’ll have an opportunity to sell yourself.
Typically, resumes will simply feature professional skills, but cover letters will elaborate on where candidates envision themselves within the firm and what they intend to perform in the job. But this is a first-impression moment. Establish trust by making your cover letter fully meet the reader’s expectations. Discover why they need someone like you and summarize your credentials to help them see you’re the one they want on their team. This will ensure a cover letter leaves a lasting impression and motivate the reader to open your resume.
How to write a cover letter step-by-step
When writing a cover letter, adhere to a basic format and avoid repeating your resume. A well-written one will wow hiring managers and distinguish you from other candidates.
Before you start writing, research the organization and position you are applying for to avoid sending a generic cover letter. The following tips outline the most effective structure and points to make your cover letter stand out.
1. Contact information
Include your complete contact information so you’re sure the organization has it, don’t just rely on your email address making it cleanly through an email trail. Your email address should create a professional impression. Don’t use an email address like [email protected]. Always include a date so that your communication has a solid reference and can be found for queries in the future.
Be formal and use ‘Dear …’, not ‘Hi,’ until you have a well-established dialogue with someone. Write to a named individual; it shows respect, and you’re more likely to get personal attention. If necessary, ring the organization and ask who to address your communication to. It demonstrates thoroughness and professionalism.
3. Opening part
Your opening paragraph will make or break your chances with the hiring manager. You want to keep it short and sweet and get to the point. At the same time, you need it to stand out and grab the attention of the reader. This paragraph is your chance to capture the attention of the hiring managers and make them want to read more. Generally, your opening paragraph should address three main things. These include how you find out about the position, your experience, and what you can bring to the company. For example, a simple opening paragraph may sound like this:
Example: “ I was excited to see that [Company Name] was hiring a sales manager skilled at tapping into new markets and growing the customer base. I have been to many of your company’s networking events myself and always found invaluable connections. With over five years of experience attracting new customers and promoting brand loyalty, I believe I would be the perfect fit for this role.”
4. Middle part
Once you have the attention of the hiring manager, it is time to convince them you are the perfect fit for the role and company. The body of your cover letter should highlight why you are more suitable than other applicants, and why the company is right for you. Essentially, this is the most critical part of your cover letter. In the second part of the body, expand on why you chose this particular company. Explain why you would like to work for them – have you attended their events? Did you like their marketing campaigns?
Mainly, show that you are genuinely interested in the company, and don’t be afraid to point out what in particular you like. Then, tease what you could bring to the company as an employee. Base this on your experience and recent news about the company. For example, propose a solution to a problem they have been facing. Show the hiring manager that you are valuable and would fit right in.
“ I believe I would make a valuable addition to the company based on my research and in-person experience with various teams at networking events.
In particular, I believe I can contribute significantly in the following key areas:
- Leadership – I oversaw the development and implementation of a sales strategy and a cross-sell methodology that capitalized on existing customer connections to offer new solutions. This led to an increase in revenue of more than 15 percent in the first six months. I have a leadership style that fosters respect, integrity, and dedication, combined with a passion for organizational strategy that accelerates the company’s growth.
- Collaboration – Throughout my professional career, I have prioritized collaboration with my coworkers, trainees, and stakeholders. My approach is driven by self-awareness, self-monitoring, accountability, and emphasizing open channels of cross-department communication.
- Financial Management — I have an in-depth comprehension of effective financial company management. I oversaw all transactions and bookkeeping for one-third of our global market, ensuring that business choices were based on good financial understanding. This has resulted in a more than 25 percent increase in revenue and a 170 percent increase in market share over the last two years.”
5. Closing part
Your closing paragraph should summarize your main points and conclude your cover letter – like in an essay. In other words, your ending should be short and to the point. Thank the hiring manager for consideration and reiterate your excitement about this opportunity. When summarizing your experience, focus on the value you would bring to the company. Finally, don’t forget to structure your closing paragraph as an offer. You have explained your value in the body of your cover letter; now, offer that value to the hiring manager.
For example, tell them how excited you would be to discuss how your area of expertise could help the company grow. However, avoid trying to sell yourself too hard. Sometimes, this can be seen as disrespectful and could decrease your chances of getting the job.
“I appreciate your time and consideration. I look forward to discussing my experience, skills, aspirations, and professional objectives in detail during an in-person interview. I am also hoping to present some of my previous projects and their impact to demonstrate why I would be a great fit for the Sales Manager role at [Company Name].”
6. Complimentary close and signature
Use ‘Yours sincerely’ if you have a person’s name at the start. If you’ve started with ‘Dear Sir’, or similar, use ‘Yours faithfully’ to sign off. On a document, include a copy of your signature, even if it’s just an added image, and put your full name below it. If your cover letter is an email or an online form box, sign off with your full name, not just a first name.
How to write a cover letter with no experience
Is it possible to write a cover letter that would help you stand out against qualified applicants if you have no formal work experience? The answer is yes; it is entirely feasible and simpler than you would imagine. Focus your cover letter on the soft and hard skills you’ve acquired via informal employment, internships, school activities, volunteering, and academic courses.
Most importantly, show your desire to learn and grow within the organization using your skills. Here is an excellent example of a cover letter with no experience:
Dear Mrs. Doe,
Your opening for the position of Junior Sales Representative caught my eye the moment I saw it on the internet. I’ve been following your company for years now, and your commitment to sustainability and ethical sourcing aligns perfectly with my values.
As a recent graduate of Business Administration, I have had the chance to get first-hand experience with the most widely-used sales processes that I would be happy to apply at your company. I am used to leading small teams of 5-10 people towards success, and I have had extensive training in sales management, customer service, and business communication.
I am dedicated to excellence, creative, communicative, and thrive in fast-paced environments. At the same time, I share the values of sustainability, ethical production, and the overall unification of the city.
Thank you for your consideration. I have attached my resume, where you can find an overview of my most outstanding achievements and qualifications, and I enthusiastically await your response.
How to write a cover letter when you are changing careers
Writing a cover letter for a career change involves some planning and preparation. If you’re changing careers, your cover letter should include the following:
- Your transferrable skills
- Past work experience that applies to the new position
- The reason you’re changing careers
- Why you chose their company
Your cover letter should demonstrate to the hiring manager how your skills and previous jobs, even if in another field, have prepared you to take on the new job’s duties. Demonstrate that you bring a fresh viewpoint that could benefit their team and the company.
How to write a cover letter when you are underqualified
If you lack some of the qualifications but are still determined to get the job, your cover letter could make or break your chances. To start, assess your skills and qualifications against the job description. This will show you what to focus on and what the employer might have an issue with. In the body of your cover letter, focus on the strengths and positives.
Highlight your most significant accomplishments, skills, or awards – if they are somewhat relevant to the position. But don’t sweep your gaps in knowledge under the table. Instead, address them directly, and explain how you are working towards improving on the areas in which you lack expertise. Finally, let your enthusiasm and passion for the position shine through to leave a positive impression.
How to write a cover letter as a fresh graduate
As tempting as it might be, it bears minimal results to apply to dozens of positions without a cover letter when searching for your first full-time job after graduation. Instead, aim to write a brief, value-driven cover letter that highlights your passion for the role and company.
Focus on the skills and experience you gained during your time in school and explain how these could be beneficial to the company. Apart from those, remember to show off your soft skills and keep the tone positive throughout.
FAQ: How to write a cover letter
- What is a cover letter, and when should I use one? A cover letter is an introduction of you as a job candidate. From your greatest strengths to your most significant professional achievements, your cover letter gives you the chance to expand on your resume and make the reader want to know more. In general, you should use a cover letter with each job application unless the job listing clearly says not to.
- Does anyone actually read a cover letter? Contrary to popular belief, cover letters are still very popular with hiring managers. In fact, many agree that a cover letter can help them decide whether or not a candidate will move further in the hiring process.
- What is a cover letter and a letterhead? To make your cover letter look more professional, you can include a letterhead. A letterhead is a page heading that summarizes your contact information and address. Including a letterhead can make your cover letter look modern and polished and save you time when putting together your other job application documents by becoming the go-to format.
- What is the best way to end a cover letter? After writing the body of your cover letter, you should write a short closing paragraph. This section should reiterate your excitement about the opportunity and urge the reader to follow up with you upon receipt. Then, you can end your cover letter with a simple “Sincerely,” “Faithfully,” or similar.
What to include in a great cover letter
Success lies within the effort you put in. Revisit your previous resume research and use it to inform and tailor your content.
- What does the company do, what are their products, and who are their customers?
- What markets do they serve, what challenges do they face, and who are their competitors?
- What does the role involve, what are the objectives, and what skills do you need?
Concentrate on the following points:
- Write to a named person. If necessary, ring HR, and ask who to address your application to.
- Show some added value. Have you got an extra skill or experience not asked for, but which would be highly valuable?
- Appeal to underlying needs. If you understand the hiring manager’s problems, you can focus on presenting skills or experience that would help.
- Show your personality. Be a focused business-like professional, but show genuine enthusiasm and a reason why you love this market, product, or job.
- Use key-words. If they want a widget manager and you say, “I’m a widget manager,” you’re halfway there already. Play to their highlighted desires in the job ad.
- Include contact details. Please don’t rely on your email address, making it cleanly through an email trail.
What not to include in your cover letter
- Don’t repeat your resume. Present added value and hooks into your resume.
- Avoid hyperbole and exaggeration. Don’t say, “I’m excellent at …”. Who says?
- Don’t get off track. Irrelevant words waste time and disappoint the reader.
- Don’t beg. Emotional pleas show you as self-centered and are a turn-off.
- Leave out your life story. That’s in your resume, effectively.
Questions to ask before sending your cover letter
- Have I clearly introduced myself and my professional experience within the first two sentences of the cover letter?
- Is my cover letter format unique, and does my cover letter stand out?
- Have I highlighted my most relevant qualifications and achievements?
- Have I mentioned the information I found out about the company as well as the role I am applying for?
- Have I highlighted why I want to work for this company?
- Is my cover letter neat, clean, and well-presented?
- Is my cover letter error-free?
- Is my cover letter short and concise?
- Do I ask for an interview in the cover letter?