The purpose of resumes is quite clear for most people – a document that allows you to demonstrate to prospective employers your work history, training, qualifications and achievements in a listed format. However, when it comes to understanding the purpose of a cover letter and what a cover letter is, let alone how to write a good cover letter, people often feel confusion and are unable to give an answer to these and other questions regarding cover letters.
Cover letters, also known as motivational letters or application letters, are made to accompany a resume on its journey through the job application process. From the very beginning, each jobseeker should develop a well-written and relevant covering document to display the reasons that they are sending their resume and how their profile is the right one for the vacancy given the experience, achievements and training they have.
It does not have to be a complicated or challenging task. The following guide gives candidates tips on how to write a cover letter that attracts attention. Also, by employing an online cover letter builder, jobseekers can quickly and easily create the perfect introductory letter for their job application by following simple steps using expert tips and advice.
Cover Letter Writing Tips
Compiling a cover letter that works well with your resume and offers a recruiter the information they need can be an easy feat with the following cover letter tips. The aim of a cover letter is to introduce your candidacy and the relevant details that relate directly to the vacancy on offer and your professional profile; ultimately to write about your experiences and how you can fit the company you’re applying to.
Writing a cover letter, therefore, involves writing about oneself, which, given a few guidelines, can become exceptionally easy to do.
- A cover letter should not extend one side of a standard Letter-size page and candidates should aim for a maximum word count of 300 words, separated into distinct paragraphs.
- Every cover letter should be generated in relation to the vacancy or company at hand. That is to say, no candidate should make just one cover letter to send to all job applications. Each jobseeker should adapt their cover letter to the needs of the specific job offer.
- Try at all costs to avoid using too many clichéd phrases and expressions and to be as original as possible because recruiters can spend much of their time reading through cover letter after cover letter so you want to make sure yours is memorable in a good way and not for repeating the same language used over and over again.
- As with a resume, it is extremely important to include only pertinent and professional information. In the case of a simple cover letter, this means, not including any personal details such as gender or age and using a professional email address in your contact information.
- It is crucial to display passion and interest for the position you’re applying to but just as important is not coming across as desperate for ‘just any job’. Your willingness to be a part of the company or team should be demonstrated by discussing business goals, culture, projects, events, etc. that you have researched and relate to the reason you’re applying.
- Lastly but certainly not least, remember to proofread your cover letter. The importance of a well-written, mistake-free cover letter cannot be stressed enough. As soon as hiring managers spot a silly mistake, even if just a typo, this can easily be reason enough for them to discard your application without a second look. Don’t risk it and make sure you proofread and edit your cover letter until absolutely perfect.
What to Include in a Cover Letter
In addition to finding a cover letter template that works for your jobseeker profile and learning how to format a cover letter to suit your needs, the next vital step is knowing what to include in a cover letter so that you can explain in detail your motivation for applying to that specific job in a well-structured manner.
The following are the main sections of a cover letter that should be inserted as well as some optional parts that you can include if you feel they bring added value to your application.
The first section to be included in a cover letter is the header or letterhead where each candidate details their name, position and contact details before going on to list the date and the recipients name, position and company address.
This section can be adapted to fit your needs each time you create a new cover letter. The header with personal information generally includes some or all of the following, depending on how much information each jobseeker wishes to provide:
- Full name
- Job title/Professional job description (in just a few words)
- Full address or simply a location, such as region and state.
- Phone number
- Professional email address
- URL to portfolio or personal website or online resume.
This section should either be to the right-hand-side of the letter or centered at the top.
The recipient’s contact information and date should be formatted with a left margin just like the rest of the letter.
Beginning a cover letter with a formal greeting is pivotal because a hiring manager receiving a letter addressed incorrectly or informally may simply toss the application aside and all the hard work would have been for nothing!
Take a look at our guide on how to address a cover letter for more guidance on this matter.
In order to know how to write a cover letter for a job, it is necessary to know what the main body of a cover letter should be comprised of and how you should organize this information.
The first paragraph in a cover letter must grab the attention of the hiring manager as quickly and succinctly as possible. The first few sentences are crucial to the whole application because, if within these lines, the hiring manager is already bored or doesn’t feel the candidate’s enthusiasm, passion or extensive knowledge in their field, it is possible the whole application will be disregarded.
Even if you are applying for a position for which you lack the exact experience, demonstrating your willingness to rise to the challenge is an effective strategy to convince the employer to continue reading to find out how you aim to take on the role.
The second paragraph is where candidates will outline their main argument for what makes them the appropriate person for the position. Here, candidates must demonstrate what they can bring to the role and the company where they’re looking to work.
It is not a time for jobseekers to show off their many awards, recognitions, publications and other experiences unless they are completely suitable and connected in some way to the job on offer. It is important to know that a cover letter is not a place to show off a list of accomplishments, it should always be tailored to the requirements of the position.
Remember to use keywords from the job description and company website so that if your application is screened by any ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) systems, you can be sure to pass this stage with no problems.
The third paragraph is an optional part which could be used to reflect on any issues within your resume that might cause concern on the part of the prospective employer or to elaborate on achievements that are relevant to the vacancy on offer.
Also, as a resume naturally highlights the professional experience and training a candidate has had, the cover letter is a good place to explain the more personal side of your application by relating a story regarding experiences where candidate’s have been able to use their soft and hard skills to deal with certain situations or overcome obstacles that could be applicable in the new environment also.
The final paragraph in a cover letter should offer a conclusion by summarizing the ways in which you can contribute to the company as well as coming to a close that demonstrates your interest in meeting to discuss further any opportunities to work together.
This final paragraph is another crucial part of your application where it is vitally important to stand out and promote the reasons to contact you for an interview before signing off.
Finally, it is best to sign off a cover letter with a simple but formal closing such as:
This phrases should be followed by the candidate’s name, and if desired, their main contact details repeated from the header such as a phone number or email, where they can be reached.
Additionally, it is becoming more common to see a short postscript added to the end of a cover letter as a way of reminding the hiring manager of the importance of what the candidate can bring to the company. By simply mentioning an achievement or specific project that an applicant has worked on or would like to participate in, you could peak the interest of the prospective employer just enough to assure your call-back and subsequent interview.
How to Start a Cover Letter
Beginning a cover letter is your first chance at catching the eye of the recruiter. This might sound difficult but you’ll be happy to know there are various ways of doing so.
The Direct Approach
Clearly state the position you are applying to by indicating the name of the job title on the vacancy or by introducing yourself and your professional description.
If you have received a referral to the position or you learned about it from someone already at the company, or from a mutual contact with the employer, you can begin your cover letter by mentioning this person and how you came to consider the position, especially if you were recommended.
Enthusiasm for the job
Demonstrate in the first few lines your passion and extensive knowledge of the field you’re applying to in order to convince the hiring manager of your dedication to the job.
Start with an achievement
Create excitement in the reader by explaining a previous accomplishment, if possible with figures to appeal to the business nature of the position. This is therefore an objective statement about your performance which shows what you are capable of in a work environment.
Employing any of these introductions to your letter is a sure-fire way to attract the attention of a potential employer, as long as you make your letter appealing, with no errors and remember to use keywords from the job description.
How to End a Cover Letter
These last few lines of your cover letter are equally important to present your final argument and persuade the potential employer that your candidacy is worth a meeting.
It is common for candidates to end their cover letters sounding somewhat needy or desperate but it is essential that this be avoided at all costs! Forget the ‘I will be awaiting your news and am available to meet at your convenience’ babble and start thinking more ‘I look forward to discussing further the opportunities to improve XXX at Company name’. The latter expression demonstrates a confident and ready individual and is much more likely to receive a call-back from the employer than the first insecure individual.
It is vital to demonstrate high self esteem and belief in what you can bring to the role, without coming off as arrogant. The key is to offer the potential employer something that they require, relating to the job description, or promote ways in which you can better practices already in place or bring new ideas to the table.