Creating a Professional Cover Letter
So, you’re trying to find a job. You’ve searched the internet high and low for listings, built a great LinkedIn profile, professionally designed and organized your resume, and now your confronted with the task of creating a cover letter – but should you even bother?
Cover letters are your first impression put to paper.
They are the very first thing a hiring manager will use to form an opinion of you, your skills, your personality, and your likelihood of fitting in to their company.
In short, cover letters are vital to landing the job you want. So yes, you should bother.
Where to Begin
Every cover letter you craft should be different than the one before. This is because cover letters should be customized to the position and job to which you are applying.
With that in mind, you will need to do some preliminary research before you start your cover letter.
Compile Information on The Job and The Company
If you are creating a cover letter, it is a fair guess that you have already found a job and take a look at the requirements.
This information is going to be important for your cover letter because you will want to state the exact job requirements you are suited for. It also shows the hiring party that you have thoroughly read the job listing.
Though the job listing information is important, don’t underestimate the value of researching the company as a whole.
Researching your prospective company can give you a gold mine of information to help you pique their interest with your cover letter. Specifically, look for information like:
- Company Values
- History and Landmark Events
- Company Goals and Initiatives
Discover Who Will be Reading Your Letter
Being able to appropriately address your letter makes you look like a pro. It shows the hiring party that you care enough about their company to research the information necessary to craft your letter.
This information can be difficult to come by. If it isn’t included in the job listing you can try searching the company directory, calling or emailing the company, speaking to a friend or family member who works with the company, and plenty of other methods.
Though this information is a great bonus to your cover letter, don’t hurt your hiring chances by being aggressive in the search of this information.
Don’t call restaurants during the lunch rush, demanding information.
Don’t look up private social media pages to stalk your way into the information.
If you can’t find the person in charge of hiring, it is perfectly acceptable to address your letter to “Hiring Manager.”
Double Check for Any Specific Requirements from the Job Listing
Although you’ve already thoroughly read and comprehended the job listing, always be certain to double check that the listing doesn’t have any unusual, specific requirements for the cover letter.
Some companies might include a line like, “tell us your favorite color in your cover letter,” which is their way of vetting who has actually read the listing.
Don’t let skimming ruin your job prospects!
Any cover letter should always begin the same way – with a professional and informational heading.
What to Include
Start your cover letter by creating two informational blocks. Your information should be first – the employer’s second.
The information you need to include in your section is:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your contact information
- The date
The information you need to include in the employer’s section is:
- Recipient name
- Company name
- Company Address
*Note: If you are replacing the recipient name with “Hiring Manager,” you should omit the title portion of your letter.
Writing Your Letter
Don’t let the idea of writing the letter intimidate you; this is the fun part.
The main portion of the cover letter is your place to show the company your personality and what you can offer them that nobody else can.
The cover letter gives you the opportunity to sell yourself with not only your skills and education, but also your personality, passion, and professionalism.
Let’s take a look at some of the standard guidelines you should follow when creating your letter.
The tone of your letter should be personable yet professional. You don’t want to lose your personality in a pile of business buzzwords and formalities, but you also want to avoid slang and inappropriate jokes. You aren’t speaking to a friend; you are speaking to your potential boss.
Additionally, avoid content that makes it seem like this is “just a job.”
Potential employers want to lower their turnover rate, which means they are hiring people who want careers. It is okay to want to move up in your career, but if they get the impression you will jump ship the moment you see a higher offer, they won’t even bother.
“I really want this job because I need the money.”
“I want a job in a new field.”
“Let me know if you want to interview me.”
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with your company.”
“I have been wanting to get started in a new field where I can find a career, not just a job.”
“You can reach out to me at any time about setting up an interview.”
The body of your cover letter should be three paragraphs long.
The first paragraph introduces yourself, how you heard about the position, and a quick synopsis of why you are a good candidate for the role. Use details from the company’s goals and achievements to relate to. This reinforces that you are a good fit for the role.
The second paragraph should be the meat of the letter. This paragraph lists your education, skills, certifications, and anything that backs up your statement about being a good pick for the position.
If you have little work experience, this is a great place to highlight your personal attributes that make up for that.
Paragraph two is also where you want to focus on using keywords from the job listing.
What skills did the application request?
Make certain you specifically mention any skill you have that directly correlates to the position requirements.
The third and final paragraph acts as a place to thank the reader for their time and make your final summation. Be certain to let them know how you plan to follow up with them for status updates.
- Do show your personality.
- Do brag about yourself and your accomplishments.
- Do include a link to a well-crafted LinkedIn.
- Do let the employer know how you heard about the job.
- Do show enthusiasm for the position.
- Do use a grammar checker to double check your letter.
- Don’t use a generic cover letter for every job you apply for.
- Don’t use slang or slurs in your letter.
- Don’t use gendered pronouns when referring to the employer.
- Don’t speak ill of colleagues or employers.
- Don’t include links to personal social media.
- Don’t write more than one page.
- Don’t be afraid to use a cover letter template to keep your layout organized.
Creating a cover letter is an integral part of the job searching process.
It may seem grueling to create a new letter for every employer, but the payoff is worth the effort. If you have any trouble, you can always check back to this guide for help.