How to Write a Winning Cover Letter

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Finding your next job can be exhausting. You have to compete with dozens of other individuals who may have the same qualifications you do. Sometimes it seems that you may need a little luck just to get your foot in the door for an interview. But instead of relying on luck, this is where you can use a well-crafted cover letter to wow the recruiting team.

By having the perfect cover letter, you can get a potential employer to sit up and notice your qualifications and get that much-needed interview. In addition, it can help move you along to the next step of the hiring process instead of your resume being lost in the dozens of others there on the Human Resources Manager’s desk.


What is a Cover Letter, and Why Do You Need One?

Many employers will ask for a cover letter when you apply to a job posting. If you skip providing one, you risk a recruiter passing you over for the position. Cover letters have a few elements that can help a recruiter sift through dozens of applicants and narrow down a short-list of candidates for a job. 

A cover letter is a one-page supplementary document that pairs with your resume. A recruiter will look at many components of a cover letter to determine one or more of these factors:

  • Highlights of your qualifications, abilities, and experience
  • How you will fit into the corporate culture
  • Your personality
  • Any predeterminations, such as salary expectations
  • If you were referred to the position by a current employee
  • Help fill in any gaps in your resume
  • Focuses on your present and future goals

You should always include a cover letter with any resume for a new job application, even if it does not specify to submit one. This one-page document can give you the exposure you need to get your foot in the door for an interview.

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Differences of Cover Letters

The cover letter for a Sous-chef will differ significantly from that of an auto mechanic. Although the purpose of each document is to highlight abilities and training, you should tailor them to the needs of the recruiter.

Cover letters can vary significantly in style or structure, depending on your tastes and work history. You do not want your document to be identical to other applicants or seem like it is the same one you include for every job posting. Having simple ways to personalize a cover letter can ensure that recruiters feel that you are genuinely interested in the position.

There are three types of cover letters to use, depending on your objective. These styles include:

  • Application cover letter
  • Prospecting cover letter
  • Networking cover letter

Each of these types has its place, so it is vital that you know which one you should use and when.

Application Cover Letter

This document type is the standard one-page cover letter that you will need any time you are applying to a job posting. This cover letter will accompany your resume with any job application to give the recruiter an idea of who you are and why you are best suited for the open position.

Even though these are the standard documents, you should tailor them to the job. This way, the employer can get a sense of your interest and excitement for the position.

Prospecting Cover Letter

If you seek out specific companies, the prospecting cover letter could be more beneficial. This type of document will also pair with your resume, but it will detail why you would prefer to work for the organization. You can use this cover letter to describe what you like about the company and why you would fit into its corporate culture.

You can ask them to keep your resume on file if any suitable positions open up in the future or if you are available for temporary work or internship opportunities. Sometimes, taking the initiative by contacting companies before there is an opening will pay off for you.

Networking Cover Letter

Once you retain business contacts throughout your career, you will undoubtedly know individuals in several separate organizations as people move and advance. Having a networking cover letter can help you keep in touch with those people and inquire about any possibilities of open positions within their company or others they may know.

Often, companies will enlist in recruiting efforts that offer current employees a monetary bonus if they refer an acquaintance that results in a successful hire. By sending out a networking cover letter to business contacts, you are letting them be aware of your availability for new opportunities.

Even if their organization is not currently hiring, they may know another one through their own business contact and refer you. Networking through your industry is a terrific way to find positions in the hidden job market that are not well known.  

Some Tips for a Terrific Cover Letter

It isn’t good enough to quickly type up a cover letter highlighting your best qualities to attach to your resume. Remember that there could be dozens of people just like you applying for the same position. You want to make sure that your cover letter stands out enough to recruiters, so they take the time to go through your resume and possibly request an interview.

Here are some simple tips that can help your document catch the prospective employer’s eye when they are sorting through many applicants.

Read the Job Posting Thoroughly

When constructing a cover letter, you will want to ensure that you include everything that the job posting asks for in the application. In addition, some companies will ask applicants to include pertinent information they want to know in a cover letter.

Because of this, you must read the posting thoroughly and complete your cover letter as a potential employer requires. If they want you to include your hours of availability or salary expectations, do not leave it out. Not following all the directions will tell recruiters that you do not pay attention and can easily make mistakes.

Customize the Document

Although you do not want to spend all your time creating a new cover letter for every job application, you should have a way to customize the document easily. This way, an organization will feel that you genuinely want to work for them rather than sending out a blanket of resumes to anyone with an open job posting.

If you know the hiring manager’s name or someone who referred you to apply, be sure to include that in your cover letter. Documents that contain an individual’s name have a better chance of getting a second look. This method is a terrific way to get your application to the next step and secure an interview.

Include Similar Language

You will want to mirror the language of the posting. This method will help grab a recruiter’s attention since your cover letter tells them precisely the skills they are looking for in a candidate. Some organizations may even use filters to sort potential job applications based on specific words they use in their job postings.

Using the exact words within the job posting can mean that your application may stand out against others. For example, if a job posting lists annual reporting as one of the duties, you will want to include the exact words ‘annual reporting’ in your cover letter. Applicants who may use alternate phrasing, like ‘yearly reports’ in theirs, may have a lower chance of recruiters taking notice and advancing them to the next step in the hiring process.

Use Identical Formatting from Your Resume

Remember to format your cover letter to match the style and layout of your resume. These documents should complement each other, and by matching the font style and format, an employer will not think that you are using a blanket cover letter for all openings in your industry.

Coordinating headers and margins will make reading through your cover letter and resume easier for a recruiter. They will sort through dozens of applications for a position, so any that are easy to read or appealing to look through will stand out among those on plain white paper without any formatting details.

Keep It Simple

A cover letter should not repeat everything that your resume has. Alternatively, it should be a way for you to let the hiring manager know your current skills and abilities and your aspirations for now and the future.

This document is the perfect place to let an organization know how you can benefit their team and what you bring to the table if given a chance. Avoid large paragraphs or complicated, run-on sentences. The simpler the page is to read, the better. A recruiter should be able to skim your document quickly and grasp the main points that will entice them to go through your resume.

Don’t Make it All About You

While your cover letter should showcase your best skills and abilities, try not to make it into a page-long story of a one-person show starring you. Ensure that you include how your talents can benefit the organization and help them reach their goals and succeed.

You can brag about your achievements, but be sure you weave those skills into how these traits will be great for the company.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

It may be simple, but many individuals skip over this detail. Often if you are applying for multiple jobs, your cover letters and resumes will blend into one another, and small mistakes are made and not caught. These minor errors can cost you the chance of securing an interview.

Once you have crafted the perfect cover letter, take the time to proofread it. Use a spell check program to find any spelling or grammatical errors and then recheck it. Ask a friend or family member to read it over and proofread it for you. A different set of eyes can make all the difference. It can be disheartening to find an error in your cover letter after using it for multiple job applications. 

How to Write a Cover Letter

Cover letters can be as individual as the applicant. Even with dozens of industries and job listings, a great cover letter should include some essential elements, including:

  • A header
  • The hiring manager or recruiter details
  • The current date
  • A greeting
  • The opening paragraph
  • The body
  • Formal closing

A Header

The header of your cover letter should include all necessary contact information so a potential employer can get a hold of you. In addition, you can use your name and present job title or employment niche, like Human Resources Manager or Data Analyst, for an eye-catching tagline.

Be sure to include your location. While some individuals choose to use their complete mailing address, others may prefer to simply list a city or town. In addition, your cover letter needs your current phone number and email address so a recruiter can get in touch with any questions or interview opportunities.

Some headers can have your LinkedIn profile details, Twitter account information, or other social media specifics. These elements are becoming more commonplace as organizations search for employees that have a professional presence online. If you are applying for a position that requires social media duties, it is best to include your professional accounts to showcase how knowledgeable you are with various platforms.

Sometimes cover letters and resumes get separated in the busy shuffle of a hiring manager’s desk. Just think of how disastrous it would be for a recruiter to read your cover letter and want to call you for an interview or read your resume for more information, only to not have the necessary details to do it. When you include all of your contact information at the top, this will ensure that they can reach you for more information if they misplace your resume and need another copy.

Hiring Manager or Recruiter Details

Some job postings will ask you to forward all applications to the Human Resources Manager or a specific person doing the recruiting. If you have this information from the posting, be sure to include it in your cover letter. This way, anyone having a quick glance over it will ensure that someone will send it to the person who should be reading your application.

If you do not know the person’s name to direct your resume to, a quick phone call to the receptionist or switchboard can be invaluable. Often, a receptionist is more than willing to give you the name of a person responsible for sorting through applications if you are polite on the phone.

Do not forget to include the organization’s mailing address and department information if you have it. This small detail will show a recruiter that you are thorough, and it displays a genuine interest in the company. In addition, some companies will have more than one office location, so including the address on your cover letter helps to narrow down which area you prefer to work in or shows your attention to detail. 

The Current Date

While this may not seem important to a cover letter, it can showcase your ability to draft a proper and professional letter for any occasion. Some individuals prefer not to include a date, especially if the job posting they are applying for is not in a traditional professional role.

Although some individuals may feel that including the current date is an old practice, it should be there to emulate expertise if your dream job is in a professional setting. You may be able to get away with not including a date for temporary positions or seasonal employment. Still, when it comes down to the details, it is better to include the date rather than skip it and risk not having a recruiter take you seriously for an open position.

A Greeting

Keep your greeting professional but friendly. Cover letters that are too stoic and rigid may seem forced and not personable to a recruiter. If you know the hiring manager or recruiter’s name, be sure to address your cover letter directly to them.

Not only will this small detail ensure that the right person receives your application, but it shows that you are paying attention to any instructions from the job posting. Alternatively, if you have to do some digging to find out the hiring manager’s name, including this can show your initiative and drive to complete research to have your resume seen.

The Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph of your cover letter should grab the recruiter’s attention immediately. It should not be longer than two or three sentences and get directly to the point. Hiring managers have dozens of cover letters to read and prefer documents that are easy to skim over and see vital details.

Sticking to the old standard introduction of your name and what position you are applying for will not raise any eyebrows. Then, throw in a sentence about why you are excited about the opening at their company and how you can benefit their team. If a current employee referred you, this is the place to include their recommendation and grab the recruiter’s attention.

The Body

The body of your cover letter can be one or two more paragraphs of critical information that highlights why you are the best fit for the job. You want to try and stay away from repeating everything you have in your resume. This section is where you can tell your story to a prospective employer.

Do not be afraid to brag a little about yourself. If you were part of a successful team that brought up quarterly sales by 200% last year, let them know. If you devised a new way to track inventory more efficiently, be sure to include it. This section is your chance to stand up and tell everyone how great you are.

If a company is looking for someone to help a department with a current problem, you can describe precisely how your skillset is perfect to complete this task. In addition, if you have any professional achievements or accolades, you can list them briefly, as long as they are pertinent to the position.

Formal Closing

You will want to sign off your cover letter in a professional manner. You can use traditional terms like sincerely or best regards before your name, while other applicants may opt for a more friendly tone, depending on the industry.

No matter how you sign off your cover letter, you want to ensure that you have a proper closing. Some individuals may take the initiative to include statements at the end of their cover letter that prepare the recruiter for further communication. These may include:

  • I look forward to discussing my qualifications with you further.
  • I will follow up with you next week regarding the next steps in the hiring process.
  • I will call you next week regarding my application and possible interview times.

While including these forward statements may be a bit bold, they can let a recruiter know how motivated you are in obtaining a position with their company. In addition, following up with a hiring manager later will also keep your name on their radar when they are shortlisting applicants for the open position. 

In Conclusion

Creating the perfect cover letter can be exhausting at first, but it is rewarding once you start getting those phone calls for interviews. This one-page document can be the nudge you need to get your foot in the door and wow recruiters with your skills to snag your next perfect job. Try not to skimp on the time and energy you spend on a great cover letter. With a proper document, you are sure to start seeing results from your job search.

No matter what industry you work in or what job posting you are applying for, including a proper cover letter is essential to help your resume stand out among the dozens of others competing for the same position. By following these simple steps and keeping these tips in mind, you can create a terrific cover letter for any job posting.

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