CNBC Make It reports that over 50% of hiring managers are more willing to read cover letters during a pandemic. It’s also because of the pandemic that there is now increased competition in the labor market, meaning it is more important that ever to put your best foot forward.
The often overlooked cover letter is your first opportunity to make a good impression and also provides hiring managers with valuable information for a comprehensive candidate assessment and decision-making. For these reasons it is absolutely worth spending some real time to craft a great cover letter. In this guide, we’ll show you how to create a cover letter that really works for you.
What is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?
The best way to make your cover letter effective is to understand its purpose. Below we will sort through each one for you. Keep them in mind when creating your document, and you will have every chance of hitting the target.
Purpose 1: Introduces you to a potential employer
Usually, a cover letter precedes your resume. You place it in your email body to the recruiter and attach a resume file for review. The cover letter is a document that first introduces the potential employer to your candidacy. Therefore, it should clearly explain who you are, what position you are applying for, and what makes you a suitable candidate.
Purpose 2: Highlights your competitive advantages
The cover letter shows your main competitive advantages over other candidates: experience, achievements, skills, or personality traits. A resume forces you to present this information in the form of simple lists. Meanwhile, a cover letter allows you to tell your professional story: why your particular skill is essential for a new position, how your personal qualities will help you fit into the team, how specific achievements influenced your career or professional development, and so on.
Purpose 3: Explains your motivation to join the company
If you only talk about yourself as a specialist in your resume, the cover letter allows you to mention your potential to an employer and make your appeal more personalized. The best way to do this is to explain why you choose the company. It could be its mission or values, a good reputation in the business environment, extensive career opportunities, or positive employee reviews. No matter how you justify your choice, this point in your cover letter proves that it is conscious and gives you an additional advantage over candidates who are merely applying for the first available vacancy.
Purpose 4: Pushes the recruiter to read your resume
According to SmallBizGenius, a recruiter receives an average of 250 resumes per open position. Considering so much competition, candidates should make every effort so that their document does not get lost in the mail but instead catches a recruiter’s attention. The cover letter does this job perfectly. First, a completed email body gets more attention than a blank email with a resume attached. Second, the information about your strengths and motivation from the cover letter is a teaser that encourages the recruiter to get a closer look at your professional background.
What You Must Include in a Cover Letter
A cover letter does not have strict content requirements. This flexibility allows you to fill it with any information you think is worth presenting to the potential employer. However, this document still has a mandatory structure. If you check the cover letter examples from the GetCoverLetter.com builder, you will see that each of them sticks to it. For your convenience, we will cover the four required elements of this document and their sequence below.
- Header. This part contains two contact information sections: yours and the recipient. The recipient’s contact details must include their first and last name, position, company name, address, phone number, and email. Your section should consist of your first and last name, the title of the role for which you are applying, address, phone number, and email. Both blocks are located at the very beginning of your document, one after one or next to each other.
- Introduction or opening paragraph. This part marks the beginning of your self-presentation. It starts by greeting the recruiter and introducing yourself. Here, your task is to grab the recruiter’s attention and interest them in reading further.
To cope with it, do not waste the first line on the banal, “I am applying for a position in your company.” This is a cliché used by hundreds of applicants, and if you want to stand out, you should abandon it. Instead, focus on your achievement, professional mission, strength, or reason for choosing a company. And only after that should you mention the desired position.
- Main body. This is the most crucial part of your paper. It includes 1-2 paragraphs and proves your suitability for the chosen position. It gives you a carte blanche in describing your competitive advantages, be it experience, qualifications, achievements, soft skills, and so on.
At the stage of writing the main body, it is essential to remember two basic rules. First, talk only about the strengths that matter for the role you choose. Second, back up your accomplishments with concrete figures or facts and your outstanding skills with examples of their application in the position. This way, your self-presentation will be persuasive.
- Closing paragraph. This is the perfect place to summarize your message, clearly indicate your desire to join the company, and thank the recruiter for their attention. After that, do not forget to say goodbye to the recipient and secure the document with your signature.
How to Address a Cover Letter
A cover letter, like any other letter, has a sender and addressee. The addressee is often a recruiter or hiring manager responsible for the initial candidate selection and application consideration. You mention them in the opening paragraph when you start your message. It would seem that addressing your cover letter is the easiest task, but many candidates make severe mistakes at this stage:
- Impersonal appeal. Phrases like “To whom it may concern” and “Dear Sir or Madam” are outdated for starting a business letter and do not work in the modern world.
- Writing a simple “Hello” or “Hi.” Do not forget that a cover letter is primarily a business document and your professional self-presentation. Therefore, a friendly greeting is inappropriate here.
- Lack of addressing. If a recruiter receives a letter without a specified addressee, they may not even open it, thinking it came to them by mistake. In some cases, they will open it and understand that it is explicitly addressed to them based on the content. But such guesswork will definitely not improve your chances of being interviewed.
The best and most polite way to address your cover letter is to include the hiring manager’s name. To find it, you can re-read the job posting, check the “Our Team,” “About Us,” or “Contacts” sections on the company’s official website, or visit the company’s page on LinkedIn. If these resources do not contain the hiring manager’s name, try calling the desired company to clarify the name directly.
If your searches are still not crowned with success, this is not a reason to leave the letter without an addressee. Instead, use the addressee’s job title: “Dear Hiring Manager,” “Dear Recruiter,” and so on.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
There is a general rule when writing a cover letter: make it a maximum of 1 page. Forbes reports that about 70% of employers think that cover letters should be half a page or less. Therefore, 3-4 paragraphs or 175-275 words is the perfect solution for your professional self-presentation.
On the one hand, such brevity simplifies the task because writing 3-4 paragraphs is much faster than a long read. But in fact, you must concisely state your strengths and prove your professional suitability in just a few lines. To cope with this task, adhere to three primary rules:
- Don’t copy your resume. What positions did you hold, what duties did you perform, which university did you graduate from – all this information is already in your resume. It should not be repeated in your cover letter. It takes up a lot of space and crowds out essential components like your skills, achievement, motivation, and so on. Plus, duplicating your resume is forcing the recruiter to read the same facts twice. It wastes their time and certainly doesn’t add points to you in the selection process.
- Don’t try to cram all your virtues. You may have an endless list of skills and accomplishments, but you don’t have to share everything in one cover letter. Instead, focus on the strengths that matter for the job. Study the requirements of the vacancy and reflect exactly them in your document. That way, you will save tons of space, bring the recruiter’s attention to job-related strengths, and prove your professional aptitude.
- Don’t get hung up on personal matters. Yes, a cover letter has a less formal style than a resume. And you can write what attracts you to the company, share why you want this position, or explain why you are changing careers. But do not immerse the recruiter in your family circumstances, reasons for leaving your previous job, or your hobbies. If the company is interested in such information, the recruiter will clarify it during your interview. Until then, focus on creating your professional portrait to get it.
How to End a Cover Letter
Some applicants mistakenly believe that their work on the cover letter ends after the opening and main paragraphs are created. They hastily finish the closing paragraph, put their signature, and send the document to the recruiter. Meanwhile, the ending plays a vital role in your self-presentation and influences your overall impression. Therefore, you should pay proper attention to it.
A successful cover letter closing consists of summarizing the above, gratitude to the hiring manager, and a farewell phrase.
Summarizing. In this part, you should again focus on the company and tell how you can contribute to the common cause. It is also appropriate to express hope for an interview or even future cooperation and mention the attached resume and/or portfolio.
Gratitude. Express gratitude to the hiring manager for their attention and consideration of your application. It will prove you as a polite person who respects the addressee and values their time.
Farewell. The most successful examples of goodbye phrases in cover letters and business correspondence in general are: Sincerely yours, Sincerely, Best regards, All the best, Regards, and Respectfully. After it, be sure to indicate your name again and put your signature.
How to Format a Cover Letter
If you send your cover letter as a file, the recruiter will first pay attention to the document’s appearance and only then move on to reading the text. This means that appearance also affects the first impression. Keep in mind the following rules to format your copy properly:
- Some applicants try to stand out with fancy fonts like Comic Sans MS, Impact, or Pacifico. But this is not the best solution. These and similar fancy fonts distract attention from your message’s essence, complicate reading, and look unprofessional. Meanwhile, fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana are ideal for cover letters. Yes, they look simple, but they do not allow the recruiter to forget that they are reading a business document.
- The font size may vary from 10 to 14 points. By sticking to this range, you can ensure that your text is easy to read. If the size is less than the recommended one, the recruiter will have to peer at every word instead of evaluating your professional characteristics. If you choose 16 points or more, your self-presentation will more likely resemble a children’s book than an application document.
- All of your cover letter text should be left-aligned with 1-inch margins. Some applicants reduce margins when their cover letter exceeds one page. But this is a failed tactic. In this case, the text appears compressed. Therefore, if you have exceeded the length limit, re-read the letter and remove less critical information.
- Choose single-spacing for your document. Thanks to it, it will look more compact. But don’t forget to include paragraph spacing. Thus, you can divide the text into logical parts and make reading more comfortable.
Cover Letter Example
The sample cover letter below summarizes all of the above tips, tricks, instructions, and guides. It shows a self-presentation with every chance to catch the recruiter’s attention and make them contact the candidate immediately.
To: Mary Peterson Hiring Manager “Digital Marketing Pro” 35 Avenue, New York, NY 8777-877-988 firstname.lastname@example.org From: Martha Wasser Content Writer River Street, New York, NY 5433-655-345 email@example.com Dear Mary, Competent and persuasive text is a powerful business tool that can create an impression of a product, increase its competitiveness, and generate a desire to buy. As a goal-oriented content writer, I want to join “Digital Marketing Pro” and ensure your product's success in the market. I have gained my experience at Smart Corporation. During my work there, I increased brand awareness by 25% thanks to an effective content plan for the website and regular work with social media. My knowledge of SEO practices allows me to promote the site in search engines and increase traffic. Through my writing skills, I accurately convey the brand's voice, design a compelling message for the target audience, and create informative texts that engage in reading. But most importantly, I love what I do and try to develop every day. “Digital Marketing Pro” is a significant development opportunity and professional challenge for me. Your goal is to connect your customers to their target audience. And I'm confident that my marketing awareness, creative thinking, and persuasion skills will help you achieve it. Thanks for your attention to my candidacy. Best regards, Martha.
A cover letter is a brief self-presentation that plays a vital role in your job search. It introduces the employer to your candidacy even before the in-person meeting, reveals your qualifications and personality, and explains why you are the candidate they need. These are strong reasons to make this document awesome by following our guide.