Cover Letter Writing Tips to Secure Your Dream Job

Cover Letter Writing Tips to Secure Your Dream Job

Whether you are fresh out of college, returning to the job hunt after having a baby or being laid off, writing a cover letter is a chore. Most applicants treat them as a necessary evil, using a single template for all positions and concentrating on resumes. However, a cover letter can be your ace in the hole that provides hiring managers with an insight impossible to achieve through a standard resume.

We’ve collected the most common questions job seekers ask about cover letters and used HR managers’ advice and recommendations to help you get your dream job.

What Is a Cover Letter?

When seeking a job, you’ll notice some job openings call for a resume, a CV, and a cover letter. The latter is a short text (no longer than 1 page) explaining the benefits of choosing you to fill the position. It’s an additional way for you to get into the HR managers' heads, get a callback or an interview. Think of this letter as your elevator pitch meant to sell your outstanding qualities and unique expertise.

How Long Should A Cover Letter Be?

80% of recruiters trash cover letters barely skimming them. They go through thousands of applications and can assess your fit for the position in 5 seconds flat. However, most HR managers will read the cover letters by the select few candidates who pass their initial assessment.

Demonstrate your consideration and respect for their time. Let your letter be concise and on point. One page is the maximum length you should never exceed. To make the text easier to read at a glance, use lists and add spaces between paragraphs. Unlike essays, your task is not to meet the word limit, but to deliver your message in as few words as possible while staying convincing and passionate.

How to Write a Cover Letter to Get Noticed?

Before you write, get in the right mindset. This way, you will find inspiration and complete the letter quicker. Here are a few steps to achieve the necessary headspace:
  • Carefully reread the job description and note the tone of the posting.
  • Visit the corporate website, blog, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages. Pay attention to the tone of the main page and blog entries, the corporate vision, mission, and values.
  • Google the company name, review its online mentions, browse employee feedback at Glassdoor to get a better feel of your potential employer.
  • Imagine yourself holding the job, get excited about the new opportunities, experience, connections, and skills you can gain.
Once you get pumped about the job, transfer this passion on paper and draft the letter. You don’t have to limit yourself to logical arguments and evidence. Throw in powerful emotions, let the HR manager feel your passion and drive. However, don’t get too familiar and avoid jokes. They might not translate well into writing. Otherwise, let the cover letter sound like a professional and polished version of you.

How to Start a Cover Letter?

As with any official correspondence, the cover letter starts with a greeting. The first line can make or break your application. Here’s what the salutation you use tells the HR manager about your personality:
  • Dear Mr. Andrews. When you greet the person by name, it means you paid attention when reading the job description or were interested enough to study the company's online presence and learn the recruiter's name. This small personal touch gets you multiple brownie points for doing your homework.
  • To Whom It May Concern. If you fail to locate the appropriate name, use this greeting. The wording might seem formal and outdated, but it’s the accepted norm in official correspondence. Notice how all words are capitalized and use this format in your writing. While appropriate, this salutation is less likely to endear you to the HR person you’ve contacted.
  • Dear Sir or Madam (Dear Hiring manager). While similar to the previous point, these salutations are the least appropriate. They tell the HR person you couldn’t be bothered to locate and use their last name, and you aren't professional enough to use the correct form of address.

What to Include in a Cover Letter?

If you want to know the secret sauce recipe to help you understand how to write a good cover letter, this is it. Copy 3 to 5 requirements or job responsibilities from the original position posting and create a list. Now make the second list with examples of your experience, expertise, and knowledge that fulfill the requirements and allow you to excel compared to other candidates. Be precise but concise.

For example, if the position calls for excellent communication and leadership skills, don’t just say you have experience coordinating a team. Instead, say you ran a distributed team of 10 as a team leader and have promoted a successful completion of the project on time and on budget.

The same rule applies to your hard professional skills. Instead of stating you possess Google Docs experience, share the success of your Google Sheets task planning tables complete with conditional formatting and a variety of filters. If you apply for an online marketing position, share links to your blog or social media accounts. Let them tell the story of your success.

What to Avoid in a Cover Letter?

While sometimes brutal honesty works and turns job applications viral, in most cases, it is best to leave your less desirable qualities for the interview stage. In a conversation, you will have time to explain the unfortunate situation better, without the word limit hanging over your head. Here is a short list of things NOT to include in a good cover letter:
  • Things you don’t know, can’t do or the ones in which you have no outstanding results. For example, don’t say you have average writing skills, better omit them altogether.
  • The reasons for your previous job termination. Do not blame your ex-employer or whine about the unfair treatment. Instead, wait for the question at the interview and explain the situation objectively.
  • Mentions of your health issues or disability. Some HR managers might interpret them as emotional manipulation while others will overlook your application to avoid discrimination drama in case you don’t get the job.
  • Criminal history or convictions are best left for an interview stage as well. In face-to-face communication, you have more chances of convincing the HR person to consider it a teachable experience, than in a short letter.

How to End a Cover Letter?

If you have seen or heard a commercial that stuck in your head, you know good ones always end with a powerful call to action, that prompts you to rush to the store or go online and splurge on things you don't need. The powerful cover letter has the same effect on recruiters.

Choose one response you expect the HR manager to make and incorporate it in your final paragraph. If you are asking yourself how to end a cover letter, you can motivate the HR person to:
  • Call you back to agree on an interview date;
  • Reach you through an email;
  • Contact you on social media.
Include the corresponding contacts in the last passage. Type your phone number, email, Skype, or add other means to contact you. Express your willingness to attend an interview at the HR manager’s convenience. They should realize that you are ready to do anything to get the position.

How to Make a Cover Letter Perfect?

Even after following our previous cover letter tips, you might be overlooked in a job hunt unless you polish your writing before sending the letter. First, read through it once again and delete:
  • I believe, I think, I guess, I just, and similar phrasing. It’s a written version of awkward pauses. These phrases take up space and make your writing sound heavy, uncertain, tedious. Wherever you see one, delete it and substitute with a firm “I am” or “I will”.
  • Necessitate, burgeon, approximation, legitimacy, and other complicated words you find in a thesaurus. Unless you are applying for a Spelling Bee judge opening, omit what isn’t common. In most cases, these words are outdated or are used in specific professional fields, and you are more likely to misuse them than make a statement. Substitute complex phrasing with simple alternatives.
  • Good, well, all right, and similar subjective assessments. If you can’t say you are great at networking or excel in team management and provide examples, do not settle for being just “good”. Either switch the focus of your cover letter to other requirements and qualities or omit the appraisal and dive straight into examples.
After you edit the cover letter, put it aside and proofread the text later with fresh eyes. However unfair it may seem, HR managers ignore cover letters with typos and grammar mistakes. It doesn’t mean they are all grammar nazis, but small errors make your writing look unprofessional and hurried, even if the content is excellent. Don’t let your efforts go to waste, proofread. Use Grammarly or similar software. You can also rely on professional editors and proofreaders to be 100% sure your writing is free of errors.

We’ve tried to answer all troubling questions on how to write a cover letter, from getting into the right mindset to editing and proofreading. However, if you can’t find your answer in this post, contact us. We’ll help you craft a unique and powerful letter that reflects your brightest achievements and gets you the dream job.

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