I've heard from more than a few hiring managers who wonder if cover letter writing is a lost art. One of them told me that he has received a lot of cover letters that are shorter than tweets including a cover letter that just said "Have a nice day." and another that said, "Please view my resume."
Cover letter writing is not supposed to be a lost art. Employers still expect them. Hiring managers at the companies surveyed by Saddleback College which require cover letters (53%) want more than just a basic cover letter.
What Employers Expect in a Cover Letter
According to the companies surveyed, here's what they expect to see in cover letters:
- Tailored skills from the job description - 33%
- Clarity (specifying job applied to) - 26%
- Details from resume - 20%
- Your (personal) value - 19%
As you can see, employers expect personalized cover letters that show them why you are a strong fit for the position and a valuable candidate worth taking the time to interview.
That said, in defense of applicants who are sending cover letters as though they were 140 character tweets, it can be hard to justify taking the time to write a customized cover letter, especially when you don't hear back from employers after sending out, in some cases, hundreds of cover letters and resumes.
It's tough when you put effort into applying - over and over again - and your applications get lost in the "black hole" of the Internet.
The bottom line though is that if an employer requests a cover letter, you need to send one - a real cover letter, not a sentence or two.
It's in your best interest to send one, even if it's not a requirement.
How to Write a Personalized Cover Letter
Start with a template: One way to make cover letter writing a little easier is to start with a cover letter template. Then, customize it to include some basic information about your skills and experience. Save your cover letter as a Word document with a file name that's easy to recognize i.e. coverlettertemplate.doc.
Each time you apply for a job, open your cover letter template document and create a new version of your cover letter. Personalize what is now your cover letter template to fit the job requirements of the positions you apply to. Here's what you'll need to personalize and update on the cover letter template:
The specific job: Edit the first paragraph of your letter to reflect the job you're applying to and where you found the posting. In the first paragraph of the cover letter, you can also share - briefly - why you're passionate about the position and would be a good fit. For example, "With my X years of experience in [industry] and passion for [xyz core job functions/skills], I believe I'm a strong candidate for this position."
If you were referred to the position or know someone within the company, the first paragraph is the perfect place to mention the connection. (Note: Always confirm with your connection before dropping their name.)
Your skills and experience: Personalize the body of the cover letter and relate your skills to the job description. Most likely, this will be the most challenging part of the process. It's also the most important portion of the cover letter. This is where you'll make the case for your candidacy. On your resume, you've listed out your skills and experience. Now, in your cover letter, you want to go deeper, and show why your particular mix of skills and experience would allow you to be the ideal employee. Take a little extra time to showcase your personality, so the organization can see why you're a strong candidate.
Save Your Letter: Be sure to save your cover letter with a new file name (File Save As) so you have a copy of each cover letter you send to employers. Here's advice on how to name cover letters and resumes.
Tweaking is easier than starting from scratch. With the template in place, it won't take long to write a tailored cover letter. You'll be sure to make a much better impression with your personalized cover letter than if you simply write, "Here is my resume."
Cover Letter Sample
This is an example of a personalized cover letter. Download the personalized cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Cover Letter Sample (Text Version)
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
September 1, 2018
Director, Human Resources
Sunny Days Daycare Center
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321
Dear Ms. Lee,
I am writing regarding the opening you have listed for a lead toddler teacher at Sunny Days Daycare Center. I was glad to see you have an opening because I have recently finished my bachelor’s degree in primary education. However, I’d prefer to focus on pre-schoolers.
While attending Western College I worked part-time at the Pumpkin Patch, a daycare center near the college. During this time, I developed the teaching skills needed for working with young kids, including patience and the ability to create simple lesson plans. I was able to work well with my fellow teachers. Furthermore, I was given a temporary lead position in the pre-K section while the regular lead was on maternity leave, so I know I’m ready for the responsibilities of this role.
I’ve attached my resume, and you can contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by cell phone (555-555-5555). I look forward to meeting with you about this exciting opportunity.
Email Cover Letter Example
Subject: FirstName LastName - Store Manager Position
I’m writing to apply for the position of store manager at Video Game One, as listed on the career page of your website. I was excited to see this opportunity because I have two years experience as an assistant manager at a Frozen Solid Yogurt Shop.
The listing requirements fit my skillset perfectly. I have excellent communication and people skills and I have managed schedules and employees for two years.
In addition, while in college I worked part-time at a computer and gaming console repair shop and I was on the college’s League of Legend’s team for three years. I’ve attached my resume for your consideration.
You may contact me by email at email@example.com and I will contact you next week to see if we can find a time to discuss this opportunity.
Your Phone Number
Review More Cover Letter Samples
Proofread Your Letters
Before you send off your cover letter, make sure to proofread it carefully. A typo or grammatical error can cost you an interview. Here are proofreading tips for job seekers.