A question we get from a lot of our prospective job seekers: Do I really need a cover letter? Whether the employer requests one or not, our answer is always YES. Your cover letter could be what separates you from another job seeker, edging out the competition and (hopefully!) landing you the gig. Including a cover letter will show that you’ve put some extra time and thought into your application process.
What to Include in Your Cover Letter
An important thing to remember is that your cover letter should not be a replication of your resume. Your cover letter is intended to showcase more personality than the data-driven resume you’ve completed. Because it is often your earliest written contact with your potential employer, it’s very important to make a good first impression. This does not just mean crafting an impressive piece of writing, but also ensuring it’s grammatically correct and well-constructed, mechanically.
Effective cover letters also delve into the “why” behind your application: Why you think you’d be a good fit at the company, why you believe your skill set to be superior to others in this circumstance. Be sure to read the job description carefully, gauge what skills they find valuable, and apply them to your own work experience.
What to Leave Off Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter is not supposed to be lengthy and should not surpass more than a few paragraphs. Instead, think of it as a way to quickly summarize your professional life and how it applies to the position you’re pursuing. You can and should leave out pieces that are better left to the in-person interview process. For example, questions about the job, the salary, the schedule, or the benefits, is not something to mention in your cover letter.
When it comes to your cover letter, focus on personality rather than getting personal. Personal information should be omitted, including notes about your family, your life, or your health. These are things that are not necessary for the employer to know.
Customize Your Cover Letter
Each cover letter you write should be customized to include:
• Which job you’re applying for
• How you learned about the job: This could be the company’s website, their social media pages, or even just word-of-mouth
• Why you are qualified for the job
A cover letter should begin with your contact information (name, address, phone number, email) followed by the date.
Begin your cover letter salutation with “Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name.” If you do not know the employer’s name, simply write, “Dear Hiring Manager.”
Begin your introduction by stating what job you are applying for. Explain where you heard about the job, particularly if you heard about it from a contact associated with the company. Outline some of your skills and skill sets that would complement the job function of this position. For example, in an Account Manager application, something along the lines of “My breadth of experience in the world of Account Management paired with my unmatched work ethic make me an ideal fit for an Account Manager position at your company.”
In a paragraph or two, explain why you are interested in the job and why you make an excellent candidate for the position. Mention specific qualifications listed in the job posting. Provide examples that demonstrate your abilities and use tangible examples from your work experience to “show” these traits in action. For example, rather than saying you’re a “team player” you can say “My ability to work within a team has set me apart as a leader within my current role.”
In the closing section of your cover letter, restate how your skills make you a strong fit for the company and/or position. If you have room (remember, your cover letter should only be a page) you should also discuss why you would like to work at that specific company.
Finally, explain what you will do to follow-up, and when. Thank the employer for their consideration and sign your name.
Edit and Proofread Your Cover Letter
Always double-check the spelling of your contact’s name, as well as the company name. When you’re sending off a lot of applications and resumes, it’s easy to confuse one hiring manager from another or use the wrong company’s name. Printing out and reading the letter aloud is a good way to catch small typos and sentences that sound odd. Most importantly, think like an employer: If you have 20 resumes sitting on your desk, the one riddled with typo’s and poor formatting is not going to look good in comparison to others.