Although it’s not always required in job applications, a cover letter is a great way to boost your chance of being shortlisted for an interview.
A cover letter complements a resume by adding a personal touch to it, as the latter is written in a formal, more detached tone. Together, these documents prove your qualifications for the position.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to write an effective cover letter.
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What Is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a short document that explains why you’re the perfect candidate for the job. It’s your direct message to the employer, allowing you to expand on your resume.
This document usually consists of about 300 to 500 words in three to four paragraphs. Unlike a resume, your cover letter must be written in the first-person point of view (with pronouns “I,” “me,” “we,” and “us”). This document is formatted like any letter with a salutation, body, and closing.
How To Write a Cover Letter: 5 Steps
1. Research the company
Employers consider not only qualifications but also culture fit when hiring people.
What does culture fit mean? You’re a good culture fit if your values and attitudes are aligned with the organization’s core values.
If you’re a good match for the corporate culture, you can perform your job well and have a thriving career with the company. Your cover letter should prove that. To achieve it, get to know the company better.
Check out the company’s website and social media accounts. Look for the core values and mission statement on the About page. View the Careers or Hiring page as well. These are good places to find information on the kind of people the company is looking to hire.
Also, get a feel for the tone of the company’s online content, whether it’s serious and formal, fun and quirky, or a mix of both. This will give you an idea of the right tone to use in your cover letter.
It helps to know the current challenges of the company, too. You can mention in your cover letter how your experience or skills can address them. Find the information by searching the company on Google and reading news reports and case studies about your potential employer.
2. Address your cover letter properly
Generic salutations such as “To Whom It May Concern” and “Dear Sir/Madam” may work for other letter types, but certainly not for a cover letter. Using one of them gives the impression that you didn’t bother to find out whom you should address the letter to.
There are many ways to know the hiring manager’s name. It’s usually specified in the job advertisement. If someone referred you to the company, you can ask that person about it. You may also check the company’s website, Facebook page, or LinkedIn profile for the name of the department head who’s screening candidates for the position.
Still couldn’t find the information? Contact the company’s HR department to get the right name.
3. Write a strong opening statement
Begin the body of your letter with an interesting statement, not a snooze-inducing one.
Writing “I’m writing to apply for [position name] that I saw in [the place where the job ad is posted]” is boring and a waste of the recruiter’s time.
Start strong instead. Introduce yourself briefly and state why you’re excited to work for the company.
Here’s an example: “I’m a digital marketing professional who has helped several startups grow. I’d be thrilled to bring my expertise and over X years of experience to your team.”
That’s just one way to start your cover letter. Depending on your personality and that of the company, your opening statement can be results-oriented, witty, or even brutally honest (but still professional).
Do you know a friend who works in the company? Or have a personal connection with the company (e.g., you’re a long-time customer, a former scholar of the company, etc.)? You can also mention such interesting tidbits within your first two sentences.
4. State why you want the position and why you’re the right fit
After your opening statement, go straight to explaining why you’re the best person for the job.
This part of your cover letter should answer these crucial questions:
- How is your experience relevant to the role?
- Why do you want to work for the company?
- Why should you be hired?
To substantiate your answers, check the job posting and review the job requirements. Choose the top three requirements and briefly explain how you can meet each of them.
For example, if the job requires technical SEO skills, mention how you excelled in conducting website audits in the past.
5. End with a call to action
Wrap up your cover letter and thank the recruiter for taking the time to consider your application. Then mention your availability for an interview and how you can be reached.
Finally, end the letter with a simple and formal closing, such as “Regards,” “Sincerely,” or “Thank you.”
Sample Cover Letters for Different Industries and Job Seeker Types
Need ideas for writing your own cover letter? Look for cover letter samples online.
Here are some sites where you can find a cover letter example for your particular industry and situation.
- Samples of the Best Cover Letters. The Balance Career offers a comprehensive alphabetical list of the best cover letter examples by job. There’s also a list of sample cover letters for different scenarios, such as a career change, an employee referral, and multiple job applications in one company.
- The Best Cover Letter Examples for Every Type of Job Seeker. This compilation of sample cover letters for various types of roles allows you to download a file in different formats through Google Docs. Visit this page if you’re seeking positions that are traditional (i.e., law, accounting, etc.), results-driven (i.e., sales, marketing, etc.), or writing-related (i.e., PR, copyediting, etc.). If you’re a career switcher, you can also find a good cover letter sample there.
- Top Cover Letter Examples in 2020. Novorèsumè lists sample cover letters by experience level, from college student/graduate to senior executive.
- Cover Letter Examples for Job Applications. Aside from cover letter samples listed by industry, ResumeGenius also provides examples for entry-level applicants, mid-level managers, career changers, candidates who want to write something fun and creative, and employees applying for an internal position.
- Cover letter examples by industry. This list includes sample cover letters for fresh graduates, interns, managers, teachers, engineers, nurses, lawyers, and more.