Writing a cover letter may not be the most exciting part of a job search, but it is a valuable tool for recruiters when assessing job candidates and can be a critical first impression. You can compose an effective cover letter by tailoring it to specific employers and expressing why you are the answer to the hiring manager’s need. Cover letters should be customized for each position to which you are applying, using the job description and the information you have collected about the company as a guide for how to draft your letter. The wording of your cover letter can express your personality in a way that your résumé cannot. The tone of your letter gives the employer an important insight into your personality and the kind of traits that could add value to their team. It allows you to explain in your own words why you are the best person for the job.
Always address your cover letter to the specific company and person who will review your résumé. It may be the hiring manager, HR manager or talent acquisition specialist. Take the time to find a specific name by researching the company’s website, calling the company directly, or find a contact on LinkedIn. Never use “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” as your salutation. If you simply cannot get a specific name, you can always use “Dear Hiring Manager.”
The first paragraph should state the job you are applying to, how you learned about the position, a contact through networking if you have one, something interesting you learned about the company, and why you are interested in the position. The reader should immediately understand the purpose of the letter and want to learn more about you. You want to capture their attention.
Many candidates simply give up on the letter-writing process. You’ve got to sell yourself. Demonstrate to the reader why he or she should consider your résumé. Include a few specific accomplishments that illustrate your past performance and select requirements from the job description to write one or two short paragraphs highlighting to the reader how your experience matches what they are seeking. Simple, declarative sentences are motivating and engage others’ imagination and desire to know more.
Have you wondered why you have not heard from a company after you’ve sent a resume? We all do. What if you took more control over the next step following your resume submission? The best approach is to close with a call to action. Let the reader know you will make a follow-up call in one week to discuss the opportunity or schedule an interview. If you were advised in the posting not to call, write that you welcome an opportunity to discuss the position with an appropriate representative or you can simply write, I look forward to speaking with you during an interview. Thank the reader for their time and sign with “Sincerely,” “Cordially,” or “Respectfully.”
Remember to exercise brevity and tell your career story with enthusiasm.