By Nicole Martin
A cover letter affords you the opportunity to showcase your qualifications and persuade the potential employer why you are a top candidate for the position. Just as with a resume, your cover letter has mere seconds to capture attention. Think of it as your elevator pitch where you must quickly get to the point. It’s imperative to take the time to carefully craft your cover letter if you want to stand out among the crowd of applicants.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Cover Letter
Include Contact Information
It may sound silly to mention that you need to include your contact information, but I have seen cover letters missing key pieces of contact info! List the following at the top of the cover letter:
- Full Name
- Phone Number
- Email Address
You may also want to include your street address, as well as your LinkedIn/professional social media accounts, portfolio, or personal website.
If you are submitting your cover letter in the body of the email, you can insert this information at the end after your signature.
Address the Letter to a Person If Possible
When writing your letter, be sure to address it to a specific person in the company. If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, address it to “Hiring Manager” or the name of the department to which you are applying, i.e., Marketing Department. You can try to find the hiring contact’s name by looking at the Team/About section of the company website or searching on LinkedIn. This section of the letter should look as follows:
123 Main Street
Town, State, Zip Code
Directly beneath that should be your salutation, i.e., Dear Mr. X.
Craft an Engaging First Paragraph
Remember, recruiters are skimming, so your opening paragraph has to really sell.
- Use words and phrases that convey your enthusiasm about the company.
- Do your research so you have a feel for the organization’s brand, culture, products/services. Read the latest press about the company, as well as the news section on its website, social media pages, and LinkedIn page. You want to find something that resonates with you which you can reference in this paragraph.
- If you have a mutual connection, such as a former colleague who works for the company that is recommending you, mention it here as well, along with why they think you are a good candidate.
- Include an impressive achievement or metric that demonstrates how you added value in previous positions.
The goal of this paragraph is to show your personality and what motivates you.
Highlight Why You Would Be a Good Fit
In the following 1-2 paragraphs, share what you can bring to the company. When tailoring your resume to the position, you should have already identified the responsibilities of the job, along with the skills, abilities, experience, education, qualities, and training the employer is seeking. This section should connect how your background aligns with what they are looking for. Don’t regurgitate your resume; rather highlight a few important qualifications that show you in the best light. If you have numbers to back up your statements, use them, i.e. the project I worked on improved workflow by 20%, the marketing initiatives I spearheaded increased sales by 30%, etc. When writing, focus on using action verbs and avoiding repetition of the use of “I”.
Create a Call to Action
The last paragraph of your cover letter should restate your excitement about the position, how you would be a great fit, and that you would love to meet with them to share the value that you can bring to the organization.
Finally, end your letter with a closing, such as, sincerely, kind regards, or best regards, followed by your name.
Your cover letter should be no more than one page, single-spaced, using 10.5 to 12 point font. I like to aim for 250-350 words. The content should be left justified, but your contact information at the top can be centered. I recommend mirroring the font and format used on your resume for consistency.