How to write a good cover letter

How to write a good cover letter

This post will introduce you to the art of cover letter writing. Whether you’ve written them hundreds of times, or not at all, this post is bound to give you some extra tips.

Although your résumé highlights to employers your professional experience, your cover letter will give employers an insight into who you are and what makes you stand out from the competition.

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a document that you send along with your resume in your job application with the purpose of highlighting your skills and experiences relevant to the job position you are applying for. A cover letter also allows you to demonstrate your personality, enthusiasm, and the distinguishing characteristics that set you apart from other applicants.

How to Write a Cover Letter

Mastering the skill of writing a cover letter can greatly improve the effectiveness of your job application. Crafting a customized letter that highlights your relevant experiences and indicates a sincere interest for the position you’re applying for can help set you apart from other applicants. Here are a few simple steps on how to write a cover letter:

  • Do your research: Learn about the company’s values, culture, and the position you’re interested in applying for. This will allow you to adjust your cover letter to demonstrate your knowledge of the organization and how your talents match its requirements.
  • Make a strong first impression: A captivating opening line will pique the hiring manager’s or recruiter’s interest. You can start with a strong opening line, such as what makes the position exciting for you, and any relevant skills and/or experience that could give them an insight into what you have to offer.
  • Highlight your qualifications: Show how your abilities and expertise are relevant to the demands of the specific position. Use examples to demonstrate your abilities, knowledge, and interests.
  • Be concise: Limit your cover letter to one page, with three or four paragraphs highlighting your qualifications, motivation, and enthusiasm for the role.
  • Proofread your cover letter thoroughly to ensure it is error-free and accurately conveys your message.

What is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is more than just an afterthought for a job application; it is a deliberate and strategic component that serves numerous roles in the recruiting process. The purpose of a cover letter is to create a personal connection between the applicant and the hiring manager, allowing for a more detailed assessment of the applicant’s qualifications and personality.

A cover letter’s objective is to highlight your qualifications, demonstrate your motivation, and exhibit your voice and written communication skills. It is an opportunity to show how the role will help you achieve your long-term career goals.

What is the Best Format for a Cover Letter?

A well-written cover letter is critical for making a good first impression to potential employers. While the cover letter format may vary depending on the industry and job position you’re applying to, a template can help you construct a visually appealing cover letter that effectively communicates your qualifications:

  • Header: Include your contact information, such as your full name, phone number, email address, and an optional link to your work-related online profiles, such as your own website or LinkedIn page, at the top of the cover letter.
  • Date and salutation: Begin with the date, followed by the address of the receiver. If at all possible, address the hiring manager by name. If you are unable to locate their name, use a general salutation.
  • Opening paragraph: Start with a powerful introduction that conveys your interest in the job and your assurance that you are a good fit for it.
  • Body paragraphs: Emphasize your qualifications, motivation, and excitement for the role in one or two concise body paragraphs. Give instances that highlight your abilities, expertise, and interests.
  • Ending Statement: Restate your interest in the role and express gratitude to the reader for their time and consideration. Express that you would like to talk more about how your qualifications and experience meet the requirements of the organization.
  • Sign off: Conclude with a brief, professional statement.
  • If you’re sending your cover letter digitally, use a PDF or DOCX file type. PDFs are difficult for others to modify, do not cause compatibility difficulties, and can be read by applicant tracking systems.

Some secrets to success:

Don’t repeat what’s on your résumé

There’s no need to highlight your professional experience again. Instead, pick out certain skills you picked up at your last gig and explain how you used them to carry out your job effectively. Also mention, how those same skills can help you with the position you’re applying to.

You can also mention soft skills here like teamwork, presenting, etc.

Write freely

Whereas a résumé is usually made up of bullet points, a cover letter allows you to write full sentences. This means you can expand on the best points of your résumé, as well as include things that couldn’t be mentioned, due to space restrictions.

Get the advice of someone you trust

Once you think your masterpiece is ready, present it to someone you trust for feedback. They can advise you if it’s attractive enough and if your personality shines through. A trusted friend/relative will be able to provide constructive feedback.

The Careers Service at the Toronto School of Management can also be relied upon for help.

Don’t be generic

Remember, employers will have likely looked through tens, maybe hundreds of cover letters by the time they come across yours. But don’t be put off; you’re a unique person, so show that on paper too. Include anecdotes to make the piece more personal or make the employer laugh. Small things like this are bound to get you noticed.

For more career advice, read this post to find out how to network effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Is a cover letter a resume?
    A cover letter is different from a resume. A cover letter is a one-page document that goes with your resume and is designed for you to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, convey your interest in the position, and highlight your most relevant experiences and skills.
  • How long should a cover letter be?
    Generally, a cover letter should be one page long. It should be brief and direct, concentrating on the most important details that will highlight your experience and interest for the job.
  • How do I address a cover letter if I don’t know the recipient’s name?
    If you don’t know who the receiver is, use a generic salutation like “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear [Department] Team.” It’s best to try to identify the recipient’s name, but if that’s not possible, a general salutation can suffice.
  • What are some common cover letter mistakes to avoid?
    Common cover letter mistakes to avoid include adopting an excessively formal or informal tone, employing a standardized cover letter, providing excessive information, neglecting to proofread, and excessively emphasizing what the company can offer rather than highlighting your own contributions to the organization.

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