Simple Steps for Writing an Impressive Cover Letter
One of the hardest things about writing a cover letter for a job is that you can spend a lot of time and effort writing a perfect letter, but not know if anyone is going to read it. Unfortunately, they may not. But if they do, it will give you a chance to pitch your candidacy for the job.
Writing a good cover letter can be hard work. You need to make sure it’s well written, shows the employer why you’re qualified, and doesn’t have any glaring errors that could cost you an interview. It’s definitely worth taking the time to make it shine.
If your cover letter stands out from the crowd of applicants, it can be the key to securing an interview.
How to Get Your Cover Letter Noticed
What’s the best way to get your cover letter noticed when the employer has a ton of them to look through? First of all, take the time to write a good one. Some hiring managers expect to receive a cover letter. In those cases, it should be mentioned in the job posting.
A CareerBuilder survey reports that 40% of employers are more likely to pay attention when a cover letter is included with an application. Another CareerBuilder survey notes that 10% of hiring managers wouldn't hire a candidate who didn't include a cover letter.
Even if it’s not required, a well-written cover letter gives you the opportunity to sell your credentials to the company and to show them why you’d be a good fit for the job.
Watch Now: 7 Ways Your Cover Letter Can Get You Hired
Quick Tips to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out
There are some quick and easy steps that you can take to write a cover letter that will impress the hiring manager. Take a look at these tips and see which ones will work best for you. Even a few small changes can make a big difference.
Start With the Basics
1. Choose the right type of letter. Before you start writing a cover letter, be sure that you’ve chosen the right type of letter. The style will be different depending on whether you’re writing a letter to send or upload with a resume, inquiring about job openings, or mentioning a referral.
2. Find a contact person. If you can find a contact person for your cover letter, you will be able to personalize it, and you’ll have someone to follow up with to make sure your letter gets looked at. If you can’t find someone, don’t worry: There are other options you can use to start your letter.
3. Include a referral. It’s worth taking a few minutes to see if you know anyone who can refer you to the job, and a referral can help you get hired.
Check your LinkedIn network, your college alumni network, and your Facebook friends to identify anyone who works at the company who could refer you. If you find someone, here’s how to ask them for a referral.
4. Choose a basic font. Pick a font that’s easy to read. Times New Roman, Arial, and Calibri work well. Readability is important too. Don’t pick a tiny font that’s hard to read. Review these tips for selecting a font size and style for your cover letter.
5. Keep it short and simple. Cover letters don’t need to be long. In fact, all a lengthy letter will do is make the reader’s eyes glaze over. A few paragraphs are plenty, and your letter should never be longer than a single page. If your letter is too long, don’t use a smaller font. Edit and cut words instead. Here’s how long your cover letter should be.
6. Leave plenty of white space on the page. Another way to improve readability is to include spaces between the greeting, paragraphs, and your signature.
It’s much easier to read a well-spaced letter than it is to skim one that has too much information crammed into too little space.
7. Use bullets. Using a bulleted list is another option for getting information noticed in your letter. Paragraphs tend to blur together, but bullets draw the reader’s eyes to the content on the page. Make sure each bullet point is short and starts with an action word. Review tips for including bullets in a cover letter and an example of a cover letter with bullets.
Show the Employer That You’re a Fit
One of the most important steps to writing a cover letter that stands out is showing the company that you’re a professional candidate who meets the job requirements. When you do so, you’ll make it easier for the hiring manager to decide that you’d be a candidate well worth interviewing.
1. Match your cover letter to your resume. Choose the same font for both your resume and cover letter, and your application will look polished and professional. Don’t mix and match fonts. It’s fine to have a different font for your page headers, but be consistent with the font you use in your cover letter and resume content.
2. Make a match between your skills and the job qualifications. One of the most important ways to get your cover letter noticed is to make a clear match between the job requirements listed in the help wanted ad and your credentials. Don’t expect the employer to figure it out. If you do it for them, it will up your chances of getting an interview. Here’s how to match your qualifications to a job.
3. Highlight only the most relevant information from your resume. Don’t use your cover letter to rehash and repeat what’s in your resume. This is an opportunity to focus on the specific skills and attributes you have that will benefit the employer. Review the difference between a resume and cover letter for more information. Focus your letter on what best qualifies you for the job.
4. Customize your letter and show the employer what you have to offer the company. It’s not worth sending a cover letter that isn’t targeted. This is your pitch to get an interview, so take the time to personalize your letter, mention a referral if you have one, and share your strongest qualifications for the job. Here are tips for writing a custom cover letter.
5. Close your letter with how you will follow up. If you have a contact person, mention how you will follow up with them. Whether you have a contact person or not, include your contact information so it’s easy for the employer to get in touch. Then add a closing and your name, and you’re almost done. Here’s a selection of closings that work well for cover letters.
Make Sure Your Letter is Perfect
Before you send your letter, be sure that it’s perfect. Even a small typo could be enough to take your application out of consideration for the job.
1. Check for typos and grammatical errors. Don’t click send or upload your letter before you have taken the time to carefully proofread it. Grammarly is a terrific tool for making sure that your cover letters are perfect. Read your letter out loud, and you may pick up some more mistakes. Also, check out these tips for proofreading your cover letters yourself.
2. Include an email signature when emailing cover letters. When you email a cover letter, be sure to include a signature with your name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile URL if you have one. That will make it easy for the recruiter to get in touch with you.
3. Email it to yourself to be sure the formatting is perfect. There’s one more thing to do before you send your letter. Email a copy to yourself for a final check. Make sure the formatting is as you want it and proofread it one more time.
What Not to Include in Your Cover Letter
You want your cover letter to stand out, but in a good way, not a bad way. There are some things you shouldn’t include in your cover letter if you want to make a good impression:
- It’s not necessary to include personal information. Your letter should be focused on your qualifications for the job.
- Never include salary requirements unless the employer specifically requests that you do. Even then, be careful how you respond. You don’t want to knock yourself out of contention for the job because you’re asking for too much money. You also don’t want to get an offer for less than you’re worth.
- Don’t mention how you left your last job, especially if you were fired. Keep your letter focused on the job for which you’re applying and keep it factual.
Your cover letter is an opportunity. Even if it’s not required, a cover letter is an opportunity to pitch your credentials for the job.
Make a match. Your goal in writing your cover letter is to match your skills, experience, and qualifications to the employer’s job requirements.
Pay attention to the details. Double-check to be sure you’ve got all the details right, including the spelling of the job title, hiring manager, and the name of the organization.
CareerBuilder. "CareerBuilder's Annual Survey." Accessed Feb. 3, 2020.
CareerBuilder. "Employers Share Their Most Outrageous Resume Mistakes and Instant Deal Breakers." Accessed Feb. 3, 2020.
CareerOneStop. "How Do I Write a Cover Letter?" Accessed Feb. 3, 2020.
SHRM. "Employee Referrals Remain Top Source for Hires," Accessed Feb. 3, 2020.
Pressbook. "Formatting Font for Readability." Accessed Feb. 3, 2020.