Writing a cover letter can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. A well-crafted cover letter can make the difference between getting an interview or just being passed over, so you want to make sure it is well-written, well-designed, and follows some key best practices. Use these 10 cover letter tips to help you land an interview!
1) Start from a template
Writing a cover letter from scratch is hard for anyone. Why not start with a template? Choose a template that you like, and then personalize it. Just about any cover letter template will work if you spend a few minutes to make it your own (Tip: Here’s a super simple and clean cover letter template from Microsoft Word to get you started).
2) Keep it short & sweet
Your cover letter should be 3-5 short paragraphs, and should never go longer than a single page. It is important to get to the point quickly and efficiently by removing any generic filler statements. After the greeting, get straight to showing how your skills and experiences are a match for the position.
3) Don’t repeat your resume
Real estate on your cover letter is valuable, so don’t waste time repeating what will already be seen on your resume. Instead, use your cover letter to tell the employer more about yourself, what makes you the right fit for this role, and why you are interested in working there.
4) Match your experience up with the needs of the position
One simple cover letter tip to get started is to take phrases directly out of the job posting and write a short explanation of how your previous positions and experiences have prepared you to fill that need. This is especially important when you are applying for different roles or entirely different industries. The connection between the position you had and the position you want may not be obvious to anyone but you, and your cover letter is where you get the chance to connect the dots.
5) Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework
Every company wants to hire someone who really wants the job. It’s not enough to just have the skill set. Including a couple of phrases in your cover letter that show you have visited their website, checked them out on Facebook, or done some research lets them know that you are serious about the opportunity. It can be as simple as, “I was excited to see that customer satisfaction is one of your three pillars of success because I also believe it to be extremely important. While at ABC Company I received three separate recognitions for providing excellent customer satisfaction.”
6) Explain any gaps in your resume
It’s hard to account for employment gaps on your resume, but your cover letter is the perfect opportunity to explain those breaks in work history and clear up any concern right away. In fact, not explaining your gap may very well cost you the interview and job altogether. A good rule of thumb is that any gap longer than three months should probably be explained, and any gap of six months or longer definitely needs to be explained. If you’re unsure of how to do this, try seeking some professional advice from a staffing agency.
7) Follow instructions
In the age of electronic applications, many job postings come with instructions regarding things to include in your cover letter. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are still people who don’t follow those instructions. When a company takes the time to ask that you include specific things, one of the first things they will check is to see if you followed those instructions. If you didn’t, you will lose points immediately.
8) Grammar and flow matter
Don’t make the mistake of letting a cover letter or resume go out with grammatical errors. I think everyone is aware of that important rule. Beyond just being grammatically correct, the cover letter needs to flow nicely. If writing isn’t one of your strengths (and even if it is), ask a friend to proofread your cover letter and resume. You can also use free online tools, SlickWrite, Hemingway, or LanguageTool to check for grammar and style errors.
9) Avoid being too formal
One reason that hiring managers like cover letters is because it gives them insight into the person behind the resume. In addition to the information, the way that you write will help them get to know you. Are you very energetic and enthusiastic? Are you funny? Are you direct and confident? Your tone will change depending on the position you are applying for, but including your personality in your cover letter helps to make you more real.
10) This is not the time for humility – sell yourself!
The main reason for a cover letter is to tell the company why you are someone they should hire. You can’t do that without talking about how great you are! While you don’t want to come across as arrogant, sounding too humble can be even worse and can make you seem as if you aren’t sure of yourself. There is a time and place for humility, but your cover letter isn’t it.
Interested in some professional help for finding your next job? Our team of talented recruiters is here to help! Check out some of these pages to learn more about our agency as well as some helpful job hunting resources:
- Milwaukee Job Board (updated daily)
- General Application (perfect for those who want professional guidance for their job hunt)
- For Job Seekers (learn all about how our staffing agency works with you)
- 10 Tips for Resume Formatting (use these tips to create the perfect resume)
- 6 Things to Know About Working With a Staffing Agency (working with a staffing agency is free, simple, and it actually works!)