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How To Craft The Perfect Cover Letter

by Louise W. Rice
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Ah, the dreaded job hunting process. I guarantee you, no one enjoys spending hours pouring through online job forums, spiffing up resumes, and preparing themselves for endless job interviews. Perhaps the most troublesome of all would be to write a proper cover letter –– does anyone even read these? Why can’t my resume speak for itself? 

We’re here to assure you that yes, your cover letter is getting read and assessed as we speak. In fact, to certain hiring managers, cover letters could be the most crucial component of your job application. Whilst it is easier to let your resume do the talking, a cover letter enables you to put yourself out there amongst the other candidates, allowing your prospective managers a chance to gauge your personality, strengths, and experience. Whether you love or hate cover letters, crafting a proper and compelling one remains necessary for job-hunting. Read on more to find amazing tips on how to write an effective cover letter. Here is a cover letter template to get you started.

Cover Letter: Basics

Crafting a New Cover Letter for Each Job

Customizing each cover letter allows you to express your excitement and sentiments towards the specific position and company you’re applying for. Whilst it’s acceptable to recycle a few killer sentences and phrases, you should refrain from sending out a generic or reused letter. For example, the line “Dear Hiring Manager, I’m looking to apply for this position in your company, and I’m so excited to begin!” would immediately signal to every recruiter that you are mass sending resumes every job listing available. 

Cover Letter: First Paragraph 

Address the Hiring Manager

Avoid using generic salutations such as “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir / Madam” –– these can appear standoff-ish and outdated. Instead, address your cover letter to the specific hiring manager by adding a title in front of their first and last name. For example, addressing them as Dear Ms. Samantha Wilson or Dear Ms. Wilson. If you’re acquainted with the hiring manager or the company is more flexible, you can opt to drop the title and last name (“Dear Samantha”). This can apply to cases where you’re unsure whether to use either “Mr.” or “Ms.” based on the name as well. 

If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, you can choose to address the department’s head of the role you wish to apply for. If there isn’t a ‘real’ person to address your cover letter to, you can choose to write the title of the hiring manager –– such as “Marketing Executive Search Committee” or “Account Executive Hiring Manager”.

Crafting the Perfect First Sentence

Begin your cover letter with a catchy and succinct first sentence that captures your excitement about the company you’re applying to, your passion for the work, and your past accomplishments. Instead of reintroducing yourself, opt to re-mention the job title you’re applying for, to refresh and remind the hiring manager appropriately. 

Cover Letter: Main Body

Don’t Read Off Your Resume

Another common mistake job seekers make is to regurgitate whatever is on their resume onto their cover letter. Refrain from repeating general sentences reused several times over, but instead expand on these bullet points to draw a detailed picture of your experiences and accomplishments. 

For example, don’t write things such as “I was the team leader and helped clients reach their goals. Instead, write it as “By conducting thorough market research and past surveys, I was able to develop a data-driven approach that enabled my clients to reach their KPIs efficiently”. If you’re stuck, try asking yourself these guiding questions: What method did you use whilst tackling this responsibility? What are some highlights of that role? How did your personality, drive, or work ethic play a pivotal role in getting the job done?

What Can You Do For The Company

There’s no point blabbering about how great the position would be for you –– hiring managers won’t pay attention to that! A good way to stand out amongst the other candidates is to identify the company’s pain points: the problems that they need someone to solve. Try emphasizing why you’re the right person for the team by highlighting your relevant skills and experiences.

Pick the Right Experiences to Highlight

Typically, the job description’s most important requirements would be either listed first in the job description or mentioned multiple times throughout the job posting. Remember to identify these key priorities, and describe how you’re able to deliver them in the cover letter. 

Elaborate on Your Skills, Not Your Education

New graduates or students seeking internships often make the mistake of hyper-focusing on their educational backgrounds. Most fail to realize that hiring managers will eventually look for your work experience (be it an internship or volunteering experience), and what you can deliver for the company. When elaborating on your previous work experience, focus on highlighting the skills you’ve learned or honed too! 

Add in Some Numbers

Throwing in statistics is a great way to show the company that your contributions have resulted in a measurable impact on the company you’ve previously worked for. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in terms of revenue –– have you garnered a significant number of clients? Managed and pulled off successful events? Increased productivity in the workplace? Plus, adding statistics isn’t limited to those who have worked with numbers –– you’re able to use numbers even if you’ve worked with people, not figures!

Don’t Feel Bad about Missing Experience

In the event where you don’t meet all of the job requirements, refrain from apologizing for your lack of experience –– such as saying, “While I may not have direct experience in…”. On the contrary, you can highlight the strengths and transferable skills you’ve learned from other experiences rather than on your weaknesses. For example, “I’m hoping to translate the skills I’ve learned in [your previous] experience into a position perfect for [what you hope to do next]”. 

Be Flexible in Your Formatting

Whilst the three-to-five paragraph cover letter might work for a traditional company, you might want to consider a different formatting style when applying for a creative or startup job vacancy. Try to gear your cover letter in the most appropriate format for the company, and don’t be afraid to take risks.

How to Use the Right Tone

Utilizing the Right Voice

Everyone wants to seem professional… but being excessively formal may result in a backfire. Career expert Mark Slack explains that being overly formal could cause you to come across as insincere, unfriendly, and even robotic. We encourage you to spend some time understanding the company’s branding through browsing their website and social media. This allows you to get a peek into the company and industry’s culture, language, vibe, and tone –– try and mirror this instead when you craft your cover letter! 

Lay Off the Enthusiasm

You can’t even imagine the number of times we’ve seen “absolutely excited for the opportunity” or “excitedly applying for this job”. We get it –– you want to show personality, creativity, and excitement. But lay off the excessive adverbs, please

Don’t Be Afraid to Compliment Yourself

When you’re stuck and unsure what to write about yourself, ask yourself: what would your boss, your mentor, your best friend say about you? How would they describe your strengths as?

How to End Off a Cover Letter

Keep it Succinct

Here’s a general rule of thumb: keep your resumes and cover letters to one page. Studies have found that more than two-thirds of employers prefer ‘the shorter the better’ cover letters –– around half a page or 250 words. 

End With a Bang

Though it may be tempting to throw away the final lines of your cover letter, we advise you to treat your closing paragraph as a final push to emphasize your enthusiasm, strengths, and how you’d be a good fit for the job. Plus, you can reiterate important details at the end of the letter too –– such as how you’re willing to travel or relocate for the position. 

Conclusion

Doing final spell-checks is a given, but have you heard of final editing checks? Let your letter rest aside for a few days or hours, and come back to it with a fresh mind –– you’ll probably notice a few errors you want to change. You might even want to consult a third party to give it a final run-through before you send it off! Remember, a single grammar or spelling error could throw off the hiring manager you want to impress. 

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