Applying for a job can be a challenging experience for many individuals. The recruitment process is often arduous or unclear, and differentiating yourself from other candidates can feel like an impossibility.
Since most employers only require job applicants to provide a resume, a cover letter can be a great way to stand out from the crowd. However, it can be difficult to know what to include in a cover letter. This article provides some simple tips and tricks on how to write a cover letter that will get you an interview every time.
Understand the Purpose of a Cover Letter
A cover letter is a narrative version of your resume. It's a way for you to communicate your skills and personality to a potential employer beyond the dry and transactional nature of your employment history.
A cover letter should reflect a strong desire to work at a company, but it also needs to frame that desire in a way that demonstrates your inherent value. The cover letter should help employers understand that you are familiar with a job position and will be a great fit for it.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
A cover letter should never be longer than one page. On average, it's a good idea to make sure that your cover letter is 400 words or less. Hiring managers often have limited time to review resumes and cover letters, so creating a document that is too long will often cause an employer to have a negative perception of you.
Cover letters should be direct and honest. They shouldn't contain fluff or writing that doesn't say anything to the reader. Each sentence in a cover letter should be punctual.
That being said, there are situations where a longer cover letter may be appropriate. If you are a senior manager or executive, a longer cover letter can help employers understand your extensive work history and experience. However, this only applies to certain specialist management roles. Most people should write shorter cover letters when possible.
What to Do When Writing a Cover Letter
When writing a cover letter, it's a good idea to break it into four separate parts. These include an introduction, a section describing your skills, a section listing how those skills will benefit the employer, and a concluding section.
The introduction should show that you are familiar with the job for which you have applied, and demonstrate that you're familiar with the skills the job requires.
The second section should list your skills that are relevant to the job. It's important to avoid listing all of your skills – the employer doesn’t care about all of that stuff.
If you are applying for a job as a warehouse manager, listing your work experience as a tech support agent is unlikely to be relevant. However, there may be skills that are relevant from a variety of sources in your work and social life.
In the third section, list how these skills are relevant to the job that you are applying for. It's important to make sure that you can directly tie the skills listed in the second section to the job requirements. Each skill should include a mention of how you have used it to benefit prior employers, followed by a mention of how it will benefit your prospective employer.
The final section of your cover letter is the conclusion. This section should thank the reader for his or her time. It should also include a firm statement of your desire to work at the company and a synopsis of how you'll provide value to your future employer. When writing this section, it's important to be direct and confident. Your writing should reflect the fact that you know, without a doubt, that you're a good fit for this job.
What Not to Do When Writing a Cover Letter
It’s important to avoid anything that could cast doubt in the eyes of the reader, or paint you in a lesser light. It's also important to avoid bravado as much as possible. There is a subtle difference between justified confidence and unjustified bragging. While it's a good idea to make optimistic claims of how you can benefit a potential employer, it will be obvious if you're exaggerating your skills or abilities.
Cover letters are a great way to stand out from the competition when applying for a job. By following this guide, you'll be closer than ever to getting that next job.
Just remember that a cover letter is only one element of a successful hire. You'll need to have a stellar resume, proper grooming, and an excellent verbal interview to get the job you want. So make sure to brush up on your interview skills after applying for any job.