The Simple Guide to a Simple Cover Letter
A cover letter is a one-page document that explains on a more personal level why you’re a suitable fit for any given job. While a resume is designed to show who you are as a professional, it (in most cases) shouldn’t be tailored for each application you send out – that’s the cover letter’s job! Cover letters can make such a difference during the application and interview processes. If it comes down to you and a few other applicants, the recruiter or hiring manager may very well make the decision based on your cover letter!
Your cover letter should…
Be brief, yet thorough and to the point. The average cover letter is far too long. Cover letters have evolved over time, and their main function is to provide a brief introduction of the applicant. A half-page or a medium-length business email is sufficient. It should quickly explain the purpose and review key credentials and experience points of the applicant. If you’re writing a full written page, you’re severely overestimating the amount of time someone spends reading a cover letter. Its only purpose is to compel a recruiter to look at your resume.
Mention your specific purpose for applying. This is the first spot where a cover letter should be tailored from job to job. If you start your resume off with something along the lines of “Dear Hiring Manager, I’m excited to be applying for the open position at your company,” you’re starting off on the wrong foot. This sentence is very transparent. Show some initiative and mention the company AND position you’re applying for, or else the reader will think you’re mindlessly sending your resume to any and every company you can. Something like “Dear <company name> hiring team/hiring manager’s name>, I believe I would be a great fit for the <job title> position and I would like to be considered for the role” is great. State why you’re here and what you want them to do.
Recap your most recent job (or if you’re a student/new graduate, your degree). Talk about what you’ve been up to lately. Recapping your most recent job or qualification shows where you currently are in your career and gives the reader a bit of background on you before jumping into the rest of your cover letter and resume. If you’re talking about professional experience, mention your current job title, company, and a short statement about what you do there. If you’re a student or new graduate, mention your school name, when you graduated/are estimated to graduate, your major/degree name and a bit about what you’ve studied.
Mention some strengths that aren’t on your resume, to establish “fit.” Don’t regurgitate your resume OR the job posting. A cover letter highlights the most relevant aspects of your candidacy; it does NOT simply narrate your entire career history. A recruiter doesn’t want to read two long documents that say the same thing, so be sure to write your cover letter in a way that mentions the most important things without getting bogged down in the details. This part is where a cover letter can shine, because you don’t normally talk about traits and strengths on a resume, you usually stick to experience. This is your chance to show them a couple of things about you that might not be on your resume. These can be modified as needed. Additionally, taking too much verbiage word-for-word from the job posting can be seen as transparent if not done properly.
Always have a call to action. Cover letters (and resumes) are persuasive documents. You’d be surprised how many people never even say they want to be considered for the position when writing the cover letter. Do more than “express interest” in a job. Ask to be considered for it! And at the end, you should always include a call to action. This could be a request for more information, a phone call, or even an interview.
A confident candidate who knows how to frame her experience, has the right credentials, and isn’t afraid to state her purpose and ask for follow-up is going to make a favorable impression on any hiring team.