How to Write a Cover Letter That Gets you Hired

No one likes job hunting. Scouring through online job boards, spiffing up your résumé, prepping for grueling interviews — none of it is fun. For some people, the most challenging part of the process is writing an effective cover letter. There’s so much conflicting advice out there, it is hard to know where to start.

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How to Write a Successful Cover Letter

Cover letter

Should you write a cover letter?

In most cases, the answer is yes, but there are a few exceptions. We will look at those later, but first, let us look at why cover letters have value. “Not sending a cover letter is a sign of laziness. It is akin to making spelling and grammar mistakes in your résumé. You just don’t do it,” says Jodi Glickman, a communications expert and author.

Why write a cover letter?

It’s an opportunity to distinguish yourself,” Glickman adds. If you are serious about landing the job, a well-written cover letter offers you an opportunity to explain yourself to the company in a narrative format and describe why you are a perfect prospect.

A cover letter also affords you the opportunity to highlight your strongest credentials. An efficient, personalized cover letter will also make it clear that you are extremely interested in the job. That is because it shows the hiring manager that you want the job enough to take the time to make the additional effort.

A cover letter also offers you a chance to add details that your resume does not contain. If you are applying from out of the area, your cover letter will enable you to provide a rationale for moving and to discuss that you will be in the vicinity soon for a possible interview.

Gaps in work history with reasonable explanations can also be addressed in your letter. A cover letter is also an ideal place to provide examples that prove you have the skills and experience listed on your resume.

Additionally, some companies often expect to receive cover letters even though they did not state the need for a cover letter in their job listings. Prospects who do not make the effort to compose a letter are often deemed less motivated for the job. In many cases, employers will not even look at a job application that does not include a cover letter or letter of interest.

cover letter

Do your Research First!

Still, as anyone who has ever written a cover letter knows, it is not easy to do well. Here is how to give hiring managers what they are looking for. Do your research first! Before you start writing, find out more about the company and the specific job you want.

Introduction and Style

More formal introductions such as “To Whom It May Concern:” or “Dear Sir or Madam,” can come across as too stuffy for some organizations, while greetings like “Hey!” and “Hi there,” are almost always too casual for a cover letter.

Lead with a strong opening sentence. “Start with the punch line — why this job is exciting to you and why you’re right for it,” says Glickman. For example, you might write, “I’m a network security professional with more than 15 years of experience and I’d love to bring my expertise and enthusiasm to your growing development team.” Chances are the hiring manager or recruiter is reading a stack of these, so you want to catch their attention.

Humor can often fall flat. Stay away from common platitudes, too. Say something direct and dynamic, such as “Before you read any further, let me draw your attention to two reasons why you might want to hire me….” If you have a personal connection with the company or someone who works there, also mention it in the first sentence or two

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Write a tailored cover letter

Be sure to write a letter that is tailored to the job listing. You should not try to fit your whole career and life into the space of a cover letter. Your cover letter should be a carefully curated selection of stories from your career that gives the reader a clear idea of who you are and how you can add value to their company.

This is a cover letter written with the job listing in mind. Focus on the skills and abilities that you possess that make you a strong fit for the specific job.
It is also helpful to research the company further online to get a sense of the company’s culture. Before drafting your cover letter, compare your skills with the requirements for the position.

Let us say you are applying for a marketing director position. Among other aspects in the description, the job requires several years of marketing experience, a deep knowledge of lead generation, and strong communication skills. Describe how, in your previous role as a marketing manager, you ran several campaigns for your clients and exceeded their expectations of lead generation (with specific numbers, if possible), and how you also trained and mentored new associates on how to manage their own accounts, which improved client retention rates.

How do your skills meet job requirements? Why do you want to work at the organization? Your cover letter needs to provide this information and leave the reader convinced that you are the right person for the job. To accomplish this, you should be using the requirements of the job to dictate the content of your cover letter and following these best practices.

Do not tell them about your amazing problem-solving skills. Explain the details of a problem you were instrumental in solving and how exactly you employed your skills to solve it. If you know the company has a problem you could help solve, outline how you can help solve it.

Do some research beyond reading the job description. Find out what challenges the company is facing and how you can help address those. Knowing the company better also helps you decide on the right tone to use in your cover letter. Think about the culture of the organization you are applying

Go beyond the resume

Avoid simply repeating your resume. Provide examples not listed in your resume and expand upon things mentioned only briefly in your resume. Your cover letter should have a distinct purpose regarding your application.

“With social media, there’s no excuse to not be able to find the name of a hiring manager,” says Glickman. Emphasize your personal value. Hiring managers are looking for people who can help them solve problems. Drawing on the research you did earlier, show that you know what the company does and some of the challenges it faces.

For example, you might write, “A lot of government contractors are grappling with how the changing laws will affect their ability to provide high-quality service.” Then talk about how your experience has equipped you to meet those needs; perhaps explain how you solved a similar problem in the past or share a relevant accomplishment.

Convey enthusiasm. Make it clear why you want the position. In today’s economy, a lot of people have the right skills, so employers want someone who really wants the job. Enthusiasm conveys personality

cover letter

What must you do before sending a cover letter?

1. Keep it Short

Make sure that your letters are concise (no more than one page topping out at five paragraphs) and that every statement you make conveys something significant about your qualifications for the candidacy.

It should be brief enough that someone can read it quickly. You do have to cover a lot of ground—but you should do it succinctly.

2. Edit and Review

Errors in your cover letter can hurt your chances of getting an interview. Errors make you look sloppy, or worse, not educated. Make certain to completely read your letter prior to submitting it. Consider asking a friend or associate to read it too to check for typos, grammatical mistakes, and confusing language.

No letter is far better than an improperly composed one. A well-composed cover letter functions as a sample of your composing ability but, unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you do not have time to write a well-crafted cover letter that sells your skills and positions you for the job, forego the effort.

3. When not to include a cover letter

If the job application instructions stipulate that you should not include a cover letter, then it is best to follow directions.

Also, if the company asks you to submit your application through an online platform, and there is no place for you to submit a cover letter, then they do not want one. Many companies now use online application systems that do not allow for a cover letter.

See if you Qualify for a WIOA Grant

Are you unemployed? There is a little known federal grant program that can pay for you to get trained, certified and placed in your career at no cost to you. Availability and amounts are based on where you live. If you qualify, this program can pay up to $10,000 to get trained, certified, and then get help getting placed in their career. The amount and availability vary by county

This can be used to get certified in fields such as Cyber-Security, Information Technology, Project Management, Business Analysis, and more. Some of the most highly sought-after certifications include CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, Project Management Professional (PMP), Scrum Master, and others.

No Risk Income Share Agreements

 

If you don’t qualify for a grant, see if you qualify for an Income Share Agreement. This is a no risk option–you pay nothing until you get placed and there is no interest. 

Income Share Agreements