Contrary to popular belief, cover letters remain an important part of the hiring process. Sure, most hiring and recruitment managers might not even read cover letters any more; they probably only will if a resume catches the eye, and that’s precisely what cover letters are for, to augment your resume.
Regardless, cover letters are important, and serious applicants should always make it a point to include one with every job application – either as a separate document, or as part of the email – along with, of course, the resume.
If your resume is well-written, well-articulated, customized and follows many of the other ‘resume-writing best-practices,’ your cover letter will do a lot to boost your chances of getting hired. However for that to happen, it too needs to be a well-written and effective. Here are a few tips and ways to write the perfect cover letter that :
1. Customize it!
Too many times, I’ve seen people write the cover letter once, and start mass-sending it out to many employers. And while that might be perfectly fine with resumes (even though I am of the opinion that resumes too need to be custom-prepared for every job application), it is of the utmost importance to customize your cover letter for each opening that you apply for. If, for instance, you’re applying for a 100 different jobs, you need to change and tweak things and come up with a 100 different cover letters, each written specifically for the job that you’re applying for. Why do we need to do this, we’ll soon see.
2. Tell the employer why you’re the ideal candidate for the position/opening
That is precisely what cover letters are for; they are used to convey to the employer all of the many reasons why you will make the perfect candidate for the job opening that you’re applying for. This is also the reason why these documents need to be completely customized right down to the very last details, because it will leave a good impression on the person reading it, as you’ll come across as someone who’s made an effort to showcase all your relevant skills and what you bring to the table as far as the opening is concerned. Show them – rather convince them – how you’ll solve the company’s problems and how valuable your expertise would be for this.
3. Tell the employer why you’re interested in their company
Points 2 and 3 go hand-in-hand. Not only will you – using the cover letter – need to tell prospective employer(s) what makes you the ideal candidate for the opening, you’ll also need to tell them what specific reasons there are that made you want to apply for a job in said organization. It could be anything – for instance you may think that the set of skills that you possess will be highly beneficial to the employer, or what you bring to the table in terms of experience will be a valuable asset to the organization. Or that it has ‘always been a dream for you to work for one of the largest companies in XYZ industry.’ Be honest and truthful, and make them feel special.
4. Keep it short
Very important! A cover letter should never be long, and yet should include all the information that it needs to have. Ideally, it should be 3 paragraphs long, and shouldn’t take an HR exec more than 10 seconds to read it.
5. Make it interesting
The good thing about cover letters, unlike resumes for instance, is that you have the power to create them whichever way you want to. Which means that you can make them as interesting, catchy and attention-grabbing as you want. Avoid boring cover letters, start off with something that immediately catches the eye, and keeps the reader hooked. You’ve got 3 paragraphs so you can make them as interesting as you’d like! In addition, you could also make it cool by putting up a link to your personal website (if you have on), or maybe even use a QR code for the purpose!
6. Check those spellings and grammar
Stating the obvious, but you need to check your cover letter for grammatical mistakes, particularly spellings. Its a big turn-off for recruiters or anyone reading your cover letter if they come across any errors in it. It leaves a bad impression, and even if your cover letter is otherwise well-written and follows all other best-practices, chances are you won’t make the cut simply because you didn’t check it for grammar. Proof-read, thrice! And preferably have a another pair of eyes have a look at it as well.
7. Avoid using your cover letter as a rehashed version of your resume
This is one of the biggest mistakes just about all people make when writing their cover letters. Turns out, cover letters are mostly rehashed versions of resumes, including education, experience and achievements stated in a paragraph form. Remember, the recruiter reading your cover letter already has your resume (and has probably already read it); the cover letter is supposed to augment your resume and is supposed to provide a different set of information to the person reading it.
8. Make sure that it’s addressed to the right person
With cover letters, you need to be direct, and address it to the person it should be addressed to – who could be a head-hunter, the HR manager, recruitment manager, or whoever is in charge of recruitment and selection in the organization you’re applying in. Gone are the days of putting a generic ‘to whom it may concern’ in the beginning, it just screams of a ‘don’t care’ attitude. Don’t know the name of who you should be addressing the cover letter to? No problem, use Google, Facebook and above all, LinkedIn for this! Chances are that you’ll easily be able to find all relevant information within seconds! Not only does it make your cover letter more personalized, it also shows that you cared enough to actually look this information up.
Feel free to add your feedback and/or your own set of tips in the comments section below!