In today’s post, we are going to review how to write a standout cover letter for a job you have applied for.
You may be asking yourself, “Do I have to submit a cover letter? Does anyone actually read it?” To be honest, the answer isn’t always so clear. It is true that there are a number of recruiters and hiring managers that solely pay attention to the resume submitted and don’t actually read the cover letter. However, there are also many recruiters and hiring managers that expect to see a cover letter and read through it thoroughly. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder study found that 49% of HR Managers consider a cover letter to be the second best thing to give your resume a boost. That same study showed that 53% of employers believe that a resume doesn’t provide enough information for them to assess whether someone is a good fit for the job. A separate study found that 56% of employers prefer to receive a cover letter during the job application process.
If you are serious about the job you have applied for, then you have to do everything in your power to make your job application standout. Although writing a cover letter can be tedious, at least you will have peace of mind knowing that you gave that job application your all. For this reason, I always suggest including a cover letter with each of your job applications.
The next question is “What is a good cover letter format?” While there a ton of great cover letter examples, I’m going to review with you what I think the keys are to making your cover letter stand out.
Let’s just first get some quick basics down. While these may seem obvious, I see job applicants get some or all of these wrong a large percentage of the time. First, always include the company’s address in the top left section (right below your address and the date). Put the address of where the job will be located if you know that. If you don’t, then do a quick Google Search to find the company’s corporate headquarters. Next, always address the letter to the hiring manager. It is always best to include the hiring manager’s name if you can find it. If you can’t, then address it to “Dear Hiring Manager”. Lastly, always keep your cover letter to one page or less. The more concise the better. I can guarantee you that no one will read your cover letter if it exceeds one page.
In your introduction, begin with a brief 1-2 sentence statement that you are writing the hiring manager to express your interest in the position. It is important that you reference the company name and the exact title in the job posting. I have had job applicants send me cover letters that didn’t reference the exact title or company name. This leaves the impression that the applicant just applied for a large number of jobs and didn’t take the time to personalize the cover letter.
Your Skill Set
Next you are going to concisely explain how you are a strong fit for the job. You are going to first do this by demonstrating how the responsibilities in your previous jobs have prepared you for this role. This is the tricky part because while it is so tempting to write an encyclopedia on how great you are, it is key that you are concise and keep this to one paragraph. The goal here is to take your most relevant (usually your most recent) job experience and show how your 1 or 2 most key responsibilities in that role are directly related to the responsibilities of the job you applied for. While it is important to reference your resume in this section, don’t fall into the trap of just repeating it. Your cover letter is the place for you to strongly tie them to the responsibilities of the job you are interested in.
If you are applying for entry level jobs, you may not have direct experience in your field. What you can do instead is talk about how the coursework you have taken in school has prepared you for this job opportunity. Additionally, you can also talk about your responsibilities and accomplishments at your volunteer experiences. A lot of those skills can be easily transferred into the workplace.
Next you are going to want to demonstrate that you are a strong culture fit for the organization. In order to accomplish this, I usually go on to the company’s website to see if I can find their values or their mission. This will show you what is truly important to the organization. For example, the company you are applying to might value innovation. In order to demonstrate that you are a strong culture fit, I would suggest writing about one of your career accomplishments that demonstrates your ability to innovate. This is also a great time to talk about any awards you may have won. This shows that you took the time to truly tailor your cover letter. However, be sure to again keep this section concise as well.
You can then conclude your cover letter with one to two sentences stating how interested you are in the role and that you are available at a time that works best for the employer to discuss your job application further.
In conclusion, while writing a cover letter for a job application can be time consuming, it can sometimes be just the thing that makes your job application stand out from the pack!