The job market is evolving and changing—and as such, so should the resume and cover letter you use during your job search. Smart candidates are figuring out how to navigate the job market landscape—and do so with poise and confidence instead of confusion, frustration, and despair. Cover letters tend to be the one document that people constantly feel stumped about when it comes to writing. Most just aren’t sure what they should say when writing cover letters, and others know what they want to say—they’re just not sure how to say it with meaning and impact, or don’t know what their cover letter format should be. With that in mind, here are my top seven cover letter tips on how to write a great cover letter for your 2015 job search—tips that are so evergreen, they will apply no matter when you need them.
Cover Letter Tip #1: Be yourself.
A personalized cover letter is a successful cover letter. No one wants to sound like a canned message, and I’m sure the prospective employer you are writing to is tired of reading the same worn out cover letter opening paragraph. Make yours stand out to the hiring manager and make a positive impression immediately by being yourself. Write in a personable way, and use this opportunity to let your personality, talents, and passions shine through to the reader. There’s no perfect cover letter formula, and in my 15+ years in human resources I’ve seen time and time again that the cover letters that get read, that make a great first impression and then help secure the interviews, are not the ones that read like a canned template. Writing a stale, overdone cover letter that sounds like it was mostly lifted directly from an internet template is one of the biggest cover letter mistakes you can make. Instead, write a cover letter that really reflects who you are and hiring managers will take notice.
Cover Letter Tip #2: Be conversational.
Jumping right from my next point, don’t be afraid to use a conversational tone in your cover letter. Your cover letter is the best place to capture their attention with your own story. What’s best about you? Let’s talk about it, and let’s do it in a personable way. The more you can reflect your personality, style, and who you are, the better sense the hiring manager will get of who you are and how you’ll be a good fit for the job. Plus, would you rather read a cover letter written in a friendly yet professional tone that tells a story (which almost always gets your attention)—or would you rather read a bunch of canned phrases and the same thing over and over again? Your career path and goals are different than everyone else’s—so don’t make your cover letter the same as theirs.
Cover Letter Tip #3: Make the connection.
Probably one of the most important parts of a great cover letter is making the connection between your career experience and skill set or interest in the company and the position they have available. I had an interior design client this year who had admired the work of a particular designer for quite some time. She considered her a role model and icon. She shared her connection to her work and how her own design work was influenced by and resembled the type of work this particular designer was seeking. She made the connection in a personable way—while being true to herself—and she won the interview and ultimately the job offer.
An effective cover letter doesn’t just focus on years of experience, type of work experience, qualifications, or even relevant skills. These are all great—but making the connection is what can really get attention and help get your career moving.
Cover Letter Tip #4: State the benefit.
When you’re sitting down to write your cover letter—or resume for that matter—you always want to write it so it is tailored to the position title and prospective employer you’re applying to. But here’s something else to remember—state the specific benefits of hiring you. What benefit will this potential employer gain from adding you to their team? State the value you bring. What are your most persuasive selling points as applicable to this hiring team and this position? State how you’ll meet their needs. What experience do you have that will allow you to immediately address and successfully resolve the company’s biggest need, right now? Hit the pain point. Know that there’s something most companies struggle with in your industry or position? Share how you beat the odds and overcame that challenge or obstacle with a past employer so they’ll be able to visualize how you can do the same for them. You certainly won’t need to do all four in one cover letter; I mean, you don’t want it to go on for days … but pick the one most relevant and elaborate on it. One of the most common cover letter mistakes is to reiterate the skills and experience that are listed in your resume—don’t do this. Focus on your value, and focus on being descriptive of how it can help your prospective employer. Let them be intrigued by that, and then they can move on to your resume to see the specific years, skills, more achievements, etc., on your resume.
Cover Letter Tip #5: Write to your audience.
There are different letters for different types of situations, and no two cover letters should ever be exactly the same. But when I say write to your audience, I’m mainly referring to the difference between writing a cover letter to a recruiter or search firm, writing a cover letter to accompany your resume when you apply to a company directly, and writing a value proposition letter—a different form of cover letter (you can read more about that here) when you’re executing a targeted direct mail campaign. Each has its own purpose and function; know which is the best fit for your purpose.
Cover Letter Tip #6: Answer the why.
Most job seekers forget to answer the WHY. Why are you interested in this position? Is it a lifelong pursuit? Your dream job? A company you’ve admired for years? Have a heart for a cause that they support, or does their mission hit close to home? Share why you’re personally interested in the opportunity. It shows you’re invested and excited—and that you’ve thought through your application and desire to work there.
Cover Letter Tip #7: Keep it short & close with contact.
While keeping all these great little tips in mind, it’s also pertinent to remember that the shorter your cover letter, the better. I recommend going through the steps above to write your professional cover letter and then going back through it, eliminating any superfluous words or any statements that might come off as canned or “from a template.” Doing so should cut back on any wordiness and shorten the length. Use bullet points if/when you can, and in the closing paragraph, don’t forget to state your interest and give the hiring manager a place where they can find out more about you: your LinkedIn profile, professional blog or professional social media presence, website, etc. Direct them to somewhere they can learn more about you and how hiring you can benefit them.
A couple of additional cover letter writing tips:
– Make sure you proofread your cover letter so that it will not contain spelling errors or grammar errors.
– Remember to explain your interest in the position. Be specific about why you are the candidate for the job.
– Employers will judge your writing skills by how well-written your cover letter is, so be sure to write clearly.
– Times New Roman is the most overused font in resumes and cover letters. Try to use a different font for a more unique, but still professional, cover letter.
– If you are making a career transition, make sure that you include transferable skills in your cover letter and elaborate on the connection between them and the position you are applying to. Use the position description to help you make those connections.
– You can include accomplishments in your cover letter just don’t go overboard or write them word-for-word from your resume.
– Avoid using a cover letter template if you want a unique cover letter. Effective cover letters are not copies of cover letter templates you found on the internet. You can search for examples for inspiration, but don’t copy language and don’t just insert your information into a ready-made template. Hiring managers can tell.
– Include action verbs when possible and avoid passive language.
My hope is that these tips will help ease the cover letter writing burden for you this year as you launch your 2015 job search. I’d love to hear your favorite tips for a successful cover letter and those you think that will be the most effective in 2015.
Here are a few more cover letter articles to help:
1 Cover Letter Secret That Will Guarantee Your Interviews
Cover Letter Samples from Indeed
How to Write a Cover Letter by The Balance
Let’s connect! I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn. Please feel free to send me an invitation here
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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