One of the mistakes that many job candidates make is having limited ideas of how to write a cover letter. A well-written cover letter is a candidate’s best chance to stand apart from other applicants. Find out how you can impress the hiring manager and land your dream job with these tips.
How To Write A Cover Letter That Lands You Your Dream Job
In this article:
- The Importance of Cover Letters
- Tell A Story
- Write Varied Sentences
- Write, Then Put It Away, Then Come Back
- Supplement Your Resume (But Don’t Re-Hash It)
- Write In Standard Business Style Format
- Tailor It To the Job
- Give It Personality
- Explain Why You Want the Job
- Refer to the Job Description
- Proofread Thoroughly
The Importance of Cover Letters
You may not be aware, but recruiters pay nearly as much attention to cover letters as they do to resumes. When an applicant takes the time to write a meaningful correspondence, recruiters notice. A well-written cover letter is indicative of a level of caring, strong motivation, and a deeper understanding of the job hunt in general.
As a candidate, you have very little opportunity to grab the attention of the people in charge of the recruitment. Every word you write to them is another chance to be the standout candidate they seek. Many job applicants waste this opportunity by treating the cover letter as an obligation or a formality. The cover letter is the job seeker’s introduction. It is a display of desire, drive, and experience.
Tell A Story
If you want to know how to write a cover letter that attracts readers, tell a story. Stories are entertaining and motivational and in the cover letter, stories humanize candidates. Everyone has a story, and you do too. What brought you to this point in your life? Why are you applying for this specific job? What are your goals? What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
A good cover letter will answer these questions and more. Recruiters like to seek out candidates who are honest, open, and transparent in their applications. The story a candidate tells reveals that the candidate is all of these things and more.
Before sitting down to write your cover letter, think about your story. Your history. Your past. Imagine you were telling that story at an interview for a job. Then, write that story on paper. Keep it succinct. And of course, fill it with interesting facts about you and your performance in previous jobs.
Write Varied Sentences
People who don’t spend a lot of time writing often have a tough time using varied sentence structures, especially when they’re talking about themselves. It’s common for the majority of sentences in a cover letter to start with the same word: I.
- “I am currently…”
- “I have worked in the industry for…”
This phrase is also used too often in cover letters:
- “I am writing you now because…”
The word I is inescapable in a document that’s written all about you, but it shouldn’t appear at the beginning of every sentence. Take, for example, the following passage:
I am writing you this letter in application for the position of senior sales associate, as posted on your website. I have twelve years experience working in a variety of sales positions, and have many strengths and skills as a result. With my resume, I think that you will find that I’ve got a great deal of success in my former positions.
Compare that passage to this one:
It is my pleasure to write you this letter in application for the position of senior sales associate. As a seasoned professional with twelve years experience, I bring to the table many strengths and skills. You can see on my resume that I’ve had success in former sales positions, and I’m ready to take the next step in my career.
Both sentences say virtually the same thing but in very different ways. The varied sentence structure in the second paragraph keeps the eye moving and holds the interest of the reader. You may find that writing varied sentences is a challenge, especially if this is not your normal writing style.
To make this simpler, start by writing your cover letter just as you would normally write it. Don’t worry about how it sounds, or whether or not every sentence starts with the same word. Just get the ideas on the page. Once you’ve written a draft, go back and change sentences as you see fit. Rearrange words. Ask yourself, how could I say this differently? What could I change?
Write, Then Put It Away, Then Come Back
This is a common strategy many writers use. Write a draft of your letter. Force the words out, no matter how hard it is or how frustrated you become: just write. When you’re done, save your document and put it away for several days. Come back to the letter after you’ve had sufficient time to forget what you wrote, and read the words with fresh eyes.
In your second reading, you should see instantly what needs to be changed and what can be written differently. Look for words that are repeated too many times, repetitive sentences and irrelevant information. Make changes as you see fit, then save the document and come back to it later.
Supplement Your Resume (But Don’t Re-Hash It)
Your cover letter is not resume 2.0. The cover letter gives you a chance to say that which your resume does not say. Your letter should reveal a personal side of yourself that the resume does not show. Specifically, your cover letter is a chance to reveal motivations, personal interests and deep feelings about your career and goals.
Your resume should be a document full of facts: what you did, where you did it, when you did it, and what came next. Your cover letter should tell the story in between the lines. It is a document that reveals feelings and speaks with your personal voice, in your words.
Write In Standard Business Style Format
You’re not writing a note to your relative or sending a card to a friend. Job recruiters want to know that their applicants understand the language of business and the formalities that go along with it. Standard business letters have a specific format that must be followed. The parts of a business letter are as follows:
- Sender’s address. This usually takes the form of the letterhead, if you have any. If you do not have letterhead, write your address at the top of the page.
- Date. One line below the sender’s address, write the date.
- Recipient’s address. Also known as the “inside address,” the recipient’s address is one space below the date.
- Salutation. If you know the recipient personally, write his or her first name. If you don’t know the recipient personally, address the recipient by title and last name.
- Body. The body of the letter contains all of the information that you wish to share with recruiters
- Closing. Write your closing word (“Sincerely” is a common one), and then leave four spaces and type your name. Sign your name in the space between.
Tailor It To the Job
Consider the job and its duties, then write a list of qualities that recruiters will value in their candidates based on the job duties. Finally, look at each quality on the list and think of stories or examples in your work history that align with those qualities. For example, imagine you are applying for a sales position. You believe that the best candidates will have tenacity, follow through, good communication skills, perseverance, and an ability to seize the moment. How does your work history show that you possess these qualities? Tell at least one story for each quality.
Give It Personality
Imagine that you are sitting in your interview, talking to the interviewer. You’re answering the questions fluidly, discussing your work history and explaining what makes you a unique candidate for the position. Your cover letter should sound like you’re talking to the recruiter. Your letter should sound like you. Write as if you were talking verbally, then revise later as needed.
Explain Why You Want the Job
Managers like to hire candidates who feel a commitment to the job. They seek out applicants who truly love their work, love the industry, love the company and love the day to day reality of the profession. Your cover letter is an opportunity to reveal that side of yourself. Explain, near the top of the letter, why you want the job. You may return to this point at other places in the letter, but position your motivation at a prominent point near the top of the document.
Refer to the Job Description
Hopefully you have a copy of the job description. This is your road map of points to hit upon in the cover letter as well as the resume. Whenever possible, tie the contents of the cover letter back into the job description. Take this passage, for example:
Reading the job description, I see that this position entails working with the public, answering questions and responding to public records requests. You will see on my resume that I have a great deal of experience in providing outstanding customer service to customers and clients.
The applicant has acknowledged that they read the job description and that they are suitable for the position in a number of ways. This kind of passage stands out to recruiters. Managers and recruiters look for candidates who pay attention to job specifics and indicate they are a good fit.
Once you’ve finally written your letter, proofread it thoroughly. Have someone else proofread it if you have time. Never submit any application that contains grammatical errors or typos.
Still a bit unsure about your prose skills? Learn how to write a cover letter from Forbes in this video:
Now that you know how to write a cover letter that wins, you’re almost certain to get many job interviews on your next job search. Good luck!
How did you write your cover letter that landed you your job now? You’re welcome to share it in the comments section below!