I can write a solid resume, interview well, and make sure my online presence is on point. No problem. But the one thing that’s always been a struggle? The dreaded cover letter.
To me, cover letters can be absolute torture; it feels like there are a million ways to screw them up. Is it too formal or informal? Too long or short? Too much information or too vague?
There’s an upside, though: Making your cover letter awesome doesn’t have to be a long, difficult process. In fact, as I’ve written more cover letters over time (and started helping dozens of other people write theirs), they’ve actually become (gasp!) fun.
Below, I’ve listed the 8 most important cover letter tips I’ve learned that will help you craft a cover letter in an easy and pain-free way.
1. Describe a Pain Point
Here’s the most important question any cover letter should answer: What problem would hiring you solve?
Notice this question is about the company’s problem, not your desire to land the job! Tricky, I know.
But think about it: If a company has put up a job description, it means they have a pain point and need a solution. For example, if a company is hiring a web designer, it means they don’t think their current layout is up to snuff and they’re looking for someone who can get them there. That’s the problem they need solved, and that’s what your cover letter should make clear in first few sentences.
2. Don’t Regurgitate Your Resume
This is a tip you’ve probably heard before, but it happens all the time: Don’t use your cover letter to simply restate your resume!
Your cover letter is the perfect place to expand on what your resume doesn’t detail, illustrate the more intangible reasons why you’re perfect for the job, and explain any particular circumstances that warrant discussion (for example, if you’re making a sudden or drastic career change).
3. The Tone Should Match the Company
Cover letters are great for companies not only because they can see if you can solve the problem at hand, but also because they give hiring managers a sense of whether you understand the company culture.
How do they figure this out? Tone.
Take a look at a company’s website, how its social media is phrased, and how its employees talk about it online. Is this company a little more informal and fun? Is it buttoned-up and corporate? Your cover letter should be written in a tone similar to that of the company’s copy. Obviously put a professional spin on it, but keep the company’s culture in mind.
4. Keep the Focus on the Company
Hiring managers assume if you’re applying to a particular job, that must mean you really want that job. Thus, you don’t need to spend your entire cover letter reiterating how badly you want the job and how great the experience would be for you.
It’s okay to spend one or two sentences explaining your love for the company, but then it’s time to turn the tables.
The majority of your cover letter should illustrate to a potential employer what hiring you would do for their company. Again, focus on the pain point: What talents and skills do you have that would help this organization tremendously?
5. Use Your Numbers
A big problem I’ve seen in lots of cover letters is they tend to be vague in describing any notable accomplishments or achievements.
For example, instead of saying you have had “a great deal of success as an email marketer,” use your numbers: “I spearheaded an entire newsletter redesign that resulted in a 500% increase in our open rate, which proves…”
Numbers also add intrigue and leave hiring managers wanting to hear more!
6. Make Your Anecdotes Short
While examples can make your cover letter super effective, many people make the mistake of including unnecessary or irrelevant information when using anecdotes that make them drag on and lose their umph.
My personal rule is to make any example or story no longer than three sentences so it avoids going overboard and wasting valuable space. Here’s how to break it down:
- Sentence 1: Introduce the skill you’re highlighting
- Sentence 2: Explain the situation where you showed off this skill
- Sentence 3: What was the end result? Explain what it did for the company and what it proves about your character
7. Make Your Opening Line Memorable
If the big opener to your cover letter is “I’m applying for Position X at Company Y” or “My name is…” it’s time to press the backspace button. There are two things wrong with both of these phrases:
- They’re redundant, so you’re taking up precious space!A hiring manager already knows your name from your application, as well as which position you’re applying for. No need to repeat it
- They’re generic and unmemorable. Give your hiring manager something to get excited about or to be intrigued by
So, how can you start a cover letter with something that has a little more pizzazz? Try opening with a favorite short anecdote, a quote that best describes you as a professional, or your personal tagline.
8. Everything Should Relate to the Job Description
As you write (and then read through) every line of your cover letter, ask yourself: How does this sentence relate to the job description? If you find yourself going on tangents or including facts that don’t prove your ability to excel at the job or understand the company culture, take it out.
And if you need some help making sense of exactly what will prove you are qualified for the job at hand, check out these 10 Tips for Deciphering Tech Job Listings.
Next time you apply for a job, try these eight cover letter tips. I can’t promise you’ll see the process as fun… but I’m sure it will be far less torturous.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Levo.