How many times have you eagerly started a job application, only to read those five dreaded words: Please attach a cover letter.
So you open a word document and try to type, but you freeze. What should a cover letter contain? Why are they asking for one? Can’t you just let your resume speak for itself?
The truth is, your cover letter definitely matters. Some hiring managers give more weight to its tone, organization, and message than to your resume! But don’t let that scare you away. The formula to a perfect cover letter isn’t a mystery. It’s easier than you may think to craft the ultimate cover letter, especially when you view it as an opportunity instead of a hassle.
Why Are Cover Letters Important?
Your cover letter is the first impression you make. It’s your opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants and highlight your skills and accomplishments. However, it’s not a lengthy autobiography! The trick is to refine your cover letter into a clear, short and condensed version of your best attributes.
If you create a compelling, original cover letter, you’re sure to get sorted into the “yes” or “maybe” pile. A generic or sloppily written missive, on the other hand, guarantees your application will be tossed in the trash.
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What Makes a Perfect Cover Letter?
Don’t start hyperventilating yet. You can create the perfect cover letter if you follow these simple steps.
- Begin by addressing a specific individual, like a hiring manager or team name. This may be available in the job description or on the company’s website. Call around to get more information if needed, but never use “To Whom It May Concern,” or other generic salutations.
- Open with an engaging sentence. Hiring managers read hundreds of cover letters a week. Set yourself apart from the pack with an engaging and purposeful first sentence.
- Wrong: “In response to your posting for a Veterinary Assistant, I would like to express my interest in your recruitment process.”
- Right: As a lifelong animal advocate and experienced veterinary aid, I’m eager to love and care for the patients of Meadow’s Veterinary Clinic as a Veterinary Assistant.
- Emphasize your most relevant qualifications. What information from your resume is most important for this position? Do you want to tell the hiring manager something that’s not evident in your resume? Now is your chance to highlight the experiences and qualifications that make your perfect for this job. Use data and numbers to support your statements if possible. For example, “I have experience leading successful national campaigns with budgets over $300,000. In my most recent case, my team collaborated to expand ABC’s client base by 24% using creative email marketing. I’m ready to apply my passion and determination to help [Company] succeed!
- Connect yourself to the company. Find a way to tie yourself together with the company. Have you used their products or services before? Did you grow up watching their commercials? Have you always admired the value they add to your community? Whatever it is, make a personal connection that proves you’re familiar with them and invested in working for them.
- End confidently and professionally. When it comes to cover letters, shorter is better. Never write more than a page (250 words or so). The best length is about three-quarters of a page so that a hiring manager can skim it without feeling overwhelmed by too much information. Close with a phrase that demonstrates your passion and determination. Instead of “I look forward to hearing from you,” try a strong ending like, “I’m passionate about [Company’s] mission and would love to bring my [your best skill] to this position.
- Don’t forget formatting. It’s not just the words you type, but how you type them that matters:
- Proofread for punctuation, spelling, and grammar
- Use standard font, spacing, and color: no gimmicks!
- Include a professional heading and signature
Example of a Cover Letter
There’s no one single correct way to write a cover letter, but this example is a great place to start. Use it as a template to make sure you utilize proper formatting and organization.
To the ABC Recruiting Team,
My resume will tell you I’m Content Marketing Certified and your records will tell you I’ve interviewed for positions at your company in the past. What neither will tell you is that I’ve been working with your customer success team to build a new campaign strategy for my company—one of your latest (and largest) clients.
After freelance writing for two marketing agencies, I spent three years at ZYX where more than five household names became thought leaders under my editorial management. Between EXAMPLE and EXAMPLE, I authored content strategies for clients that loathed fluff and expected organic growth every month.
I applied that sense of urgency to ZYX, where we’re applying numerous topic clusters to several ancient service pages, validating all of the mega-technical blog content I’ve written for these pages over the last year.
I want to help great content perform better, and you want to help great brands rethink search for content they created years ago. Let’s do both, with me as your SEO and Content Optimization Manager.
My resume is attached, including links to my work. I can’t wait to talk further!
Your Name Here