Writing a Cover Letter That Will Stand Out.
In the age of the digital recruiting, is it still important to know how to write a cover letter? The short answer: Yes!
Yet, far too often, job seekers treat the cover letter as an afterthought to writing a resume. Or they don't bother to write one at all.
Your cover letter is your introduction to a company and an opportunity to make a great first impression on a prospective employer. So don't squander it.
Today, a cover letter, like your resume, is not typically hard copy mailed to an employer. In fact, it may not be a letter at all. The savviest job seekers still manage to include its modern equivalent somewhere in the body of an email message or an online job application. Someone who takes the time and effort to do this will have a leg up.
Here are tips for writing a cover letter that will convince hiring managers and HR professionals to interview you.
1. Don't just rehash your resume
What's the first thing to know about how to write a cover letter? Your words should do more than restate salient details from your resume. Check out this brief checklist of important functions of a cover letter:
Draw attention to specific skills and experience that make you an ideal candidate.
Mention other relevant skills your resume may not illustrate.
Explain why you would love to have the job in question.
Show you've done research on the company, its mission and key leadership.
2. Tailor your cover letter to a specific job
Don’t use a one-size-fits-all cover letter template for all the positions you apply for. If you do, you’re missing the point: Only a letter that’s targeted to the job at hand will make a positive impression. Write a cover letter employers can't ignore by tying it to the elements of the job that match your unique skills and experience. What are they asking for that you’re especially good at? Those are the points to stress when writing a cover letter.
Just as important, gather facts and figures that support your claims. For example, if you're applying for a managerial role, mention the size of teams and budgets you’ve managed. If it’s a sales role, describe specific sales goals you've achieved.
In addition to highlighting your talents, you can further personalize your cover letter by demonstrating your familiarity with the specific industry, employer and type of position.
3. Be proud of your past accomplishments
Companies want confident employees who love their work. They know these are the people who tend to perform better, serve as stronger team members and have greater potential to grow along with the business. Don’t hesitate to brag a little about your most pertinent achievements.
4. Keep it brief
The barrage of information coming at all of us today has created attention spans that are shorter than ever before. Cover letters are no exception. Managers are often inundated with applications, so economy of words matters. Keep your cover letter to no more than one page if printed. Short is sweet.
5. Address the hiring manager personally
Just as you personalize your resume to the role, you should also address the cover letter to the person actually hiring for the position. If it’s not spelled out in the job posting, call the employer's main phone number and ask for the name and title of the hiring manager. If you’re still in school or just out, your career services office may be able to help you identify the right contact at a company.
6. Use keywords from the job description
Many employers use resume-filtering software that scans for keywords and evaluates how closely resumes and cover letters match the preferred skills and experience. That means your cover letter should incorporate key phrases you've identified in the job description — if they honestly match with your background and strengths. During the writing process, carefully review the job ad for the type of degree required, the number of years' experience needed, specified software skills, organization and communication abilities, and project management background.
7. Address any concerns
The cover letter also is a place to preemptively explain anything that might give a hiring manager pause, such as a gap in employment. If you have been out of work, briefly explain what you’ve done to keep your skills up to date.
8. Proofread your cover letter!
Last, but decidedly not least, once you're convinced you've made a strong argument for your candidacy, it's time to proofread your work. Typos signal carelessness or a cavalier attitude to an employer. Even a single typographical error can damage your chances of landing an interview. After you've given your letter a final polish, ask a friend with strong grammar, punctuation and spelling skills to review it. Consider providing a copy of the job posting so your friend can make sure you've hit all the right points.
How to Write an Awesome Cover Letter Closing
Your cover letter closing matters. Here are some tips on how to end a cover letter — and some Resumania™ examples highlighting what not to do.
Many job seekers focus all their attention on polishing their resume, giving less importance to writing a strong cover letter. But the cover letter isn’t just a formality. It’s as important as your resume. In fact, it can be even more essential because, if it doesn’t capture a hiring manager’s attention, your resume might not get eyeballed at all.
Your resume may spell out your skills, but it’s your cover letter that gives you the opportunity to convince a potential employer that you would be an asset to the company and can hit the ground running. And the final paragraph of your letter is key — it’s what leaves the last impression of you with a hiring manager. Your conclusion should propel them to action, namely to schedule an interview.
Components of a good cover letter closing
Use the closing to accomplish three tasks: Sum up your most relevant strengths, include an action item that moves the process forward, and thank the hiring manager for their time.
Sum up your strengths. In recasting your professional strengths, don’t simply repeat phrases the hiring manager has already read. Use fresh language to succinctly make your case in the close. (See examples below.)
Be polite and confident. A cover letter closing like, “I look forward to hearing from you,” won’t spur a manager to pick up the phone. Instead you could write, “I look forward to speaking with you about how I can put my skills to work for ABC Widgets.” Politely request an interview; don’t demand one or say you’ll call the office in the coming week. You want to be confident, not pushy.
Say thanks. Make sure to offer thanks for their time and consideration, and choose a professional closing salutation such as, “Sincerely,” “Best regards” or “Thank you for your consideration.” Avoid overly familiar phrases like, “Yours,” “Cheers” or “Take care.”
As far as tone, use the same style for your final paragraph you employed in crafting the rest of your cover letter: Keep it professional. This isn’t the forum for jokes, text-message shorthand, high emotion, exclamation points or casual language. Be sure to keep your cover letter to one page and indicate any attachments, enclosures or documents the hiring manager may expect to receive related to your application.
Examples of how to end a cover letter
Here are some options to help you draft a strong cover letter closing:
“Thank you for your time. I look forward to speaking to your further about my in-depth experience and passion for all aspects of web development. You can reach me at [phone number and email].”
“I would love the chance to further discuss the position and what skills I’d bring to the job. Thank you for considering my application.”
“I believe my five years of experience in user design, specifically working in the finance industry, will be an excellent match for this job. I welcome the chance to discuss how my qualifications will contribute to your firm’s success. Thank you for your consideration.”
“With my extensive accounts payable experience, I believe I can quickly get up to speed in this position. I’d welcome the opportunity to speak with you more about my qualifications at [phone number and email]. Thank you for your time.”
Cover letter closing fails
You can also benefit from studying examples of what you should absolutely not do. Resumania™ offers Robert Half’s take on resumes and cover letters that missed the mark. Here are some amusing real-life cover letter closings our company has come across:
“Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you in the new future.”
“All I ask is for you to consider my perspicacious aspiration to become an erudite factotum in your organization.”
“Finally, as an overview, I love to collaborate to enlighten direction based on targetted markets.”
“Please, before you blow me off as ‘overqualified,’ understand that what I am overqualified for is being a department-store greeter.”
“Making me an addition to this workforce will not be a problem.”
This last embarrassing typo is from a job candidate whose first name is Doug: “Sincerely, Dog.”
As with other parts of the note, your cover letter closing should be informative, concise and correct. Bad grammar, punctuation errors, typos or misspellings might be all the incentive a hiring manager needs to toss your application aside for lacking attention to detail. Don’t rely on spell-check. Proofread your submission carefully and get someone else to look at it as well. A well-thought-out final statement can help you close the deal.