When applying for a job, most candidates completely disregard the cover letter. Instead, they just focus on providing a well-rounded resume. Not having a covering letter seems unprofessional and is one of the most common reasons why people get rejected.
Basically, cover letters are used as a way of introduction. While resumes will contain most of your personal data and will rarely be changed, cover letters have to be adapted and modified whenever you apply for a new position.
There are several things that can be accomplished with a cover letter such as:
- It is the best way to introduce yourself
- You can talk about your previous experience in the industry and how it can serve you for the new position
- Candidate should talk about motivation; why did you apply for a particular position in a particular company
- It sets a tone for your resume
As the name implies, this document serves as a “letter” of a sort. In other words, you can use it to create a meaningful text, something that resume’s form usually doesn’t allow. Unlike resumes, where you mainly use bullet points and short sentences, the cover letter is much more wholesome and natural-sounding.
However, that doesn’t mean you should use it to tell your life story. Like CV, it should be short, up to point and it has to have a call-to-action. Similar to resume, it is a promotional tool that allows recruiters to learn more about you.
Main elements of a cover letter
Keep in mind that creating a such a document is not an exact science; there are no rules in terms of what you need to include. However, given its form, there are certain elements that are necessary so that the document makes sense and helps you achieve your goals.
Basic contact details
Similar to a real letter, you need to add basic contact details. Make sure to put your name, phone number, and email in the top right corner. When reading it, the recruiter has to have the option of quickly contacting you. Pay special attention to your email; make sure to create an address that looks presentable.
You shouldn’t add anything else, like a street or postal code. There is no need to go overboard as you have to be careful with the amount of information you’re providing.
Every letter to a stranger has to have a proper introduction. But before we get there, make sure to add the name and details of a person that you’re contacting. Put first and last name, position within the company and contact details (preferably just email).
Oftentimes, it is really hard to find this information. Bigger companies have lots of employees in their HR department so you never know who is going to receive it. Nevertheless, you can put the information for the main HR manager; this is usually the safest bet. In the worst case scenario, if you can’t find anything, you can just put “To whomever it may concern”.
The first line is the most important one. Tell the recruiter who you are and why you are contacting the company. Be cordial at all times and try to sound as natural (but professional) as possible. Put the name of the position you’re applying for. Showing some enthusiasm from the get-go is also a positive thing.
Skills and experience
There are two main advantages to creating cover letters: you can make normal human contact with a person and you can also showcase your skills and experience.
If you have a long professional history, there is probably some information you’re omitting from a resume for the purpose of being short. In the cover letter, you can mention all the skills, experience, situations, issues that you’ve dealt with and that can help you perform the job better. At this point, you’re trying to leave a good impression on the recruiter and persuade him or her that you’re the best person for the job.
Companies usually have specific requirements (for example, you might need specific skills for the position). Even if you have limited experience or skillset, the cover letter can be used to discuss them and present yourself in a better way. On the other hand, if the company is focusing on a particular skill and you’re great at it, you can write more about it and showcase your proficiency.
This is especially important for individuals who have changed a lot of jobs and companies. Unlike your resume, where information may get diluted, covering letters help you focus on one thing that a company needs.
Call-to-action or CTA is a common tool that marketing experts use.
It is not enough to simply provide information; you also have to persuade a person to act. After finishing the text, you can place a call-to-action such as “Looking forward to hearing from you”. This might seem like a small thing but it does work and helps put a bit more pressure and urgency on a person.
Things you should avoid
Like with resumes, things that are redundant are often the main reason why we lose a chance. This item has to be clean and on-point. Here are some things you have to focus avoid at all costs.
Bad grammar and typos
Bad grammar and lots of typos can big deterrent to recruiters especially if you’re applying for a high-profile, well-paid position.
Too many mistakes can indicate a lack of discipline and attention to details which can be disastrous in the modern business world. While programs such as Microsoft Word have their own grammar checkers, you should always double-check everything before sending. There are also tools such as Grammarly that can help you with that.
Anyway, if you’re uncertain about your skills as a writer, you can always hire a resume writing company to help you out with that.
Keeping resume and cover letter together
As already mentioned, cover letter and resume have different purposes. Although lots of people realize this, there are still those who put the cover letter and resume in the same document.
These two always have to be separate as they have a different purpose. In fact, while your resume will most likely be kept and printed for later use (if you get to the interview), the cover letter is usually read once. So, in that regard, there is no real reason to keep them together. By doing so, you’re just making a clutter which can be a bad sign for recruiters.
Too much use of “I”
One of the most common mistakes is using the personal pronoun “I”. It always looks like a sign of arrogance and it can severely impair the flow of the letter. While it is really hard to completely omit it, try to reduce it to a minimum. Instead, try focusing on different phrasing.
Mentioning other companies
Even if you’re currently employed or being recruited by another company, it is something you should always avoid mentioning.
You need to focus on the company you’re applying to; you need to sell your skill set to them. If there are too many things going on in your life, it is best to keep it under wraps. Mentioning other employers will not provide any benefit but instead, it might deter the company from hiring you.
If you do have to mention other company, mention them in a positive or at least neutral light.
Additional tips to keep in mind
Here are some other things you need to consider prior to creating a letter.
Learn more about the company
The first thing that you have to do is learn more about the company. How are they rated as employers? What kind of benefits and salary can you expect? What are the working hours?
Luckily for you, most of this information you can find online. Start by checking their site and “About us” page. But, keep in mind that this isn’t enough as companies always present themselves in the best light possible. Instead, make sure to go to YouTube and see what other people have to say about them. You can also ask around on the web, through various sites such as Quora or Reddit.
You have to learn more about their culture and values. Even though you don’t have much space when writing a cover letter, if you present yourself as someone who shares these values, you can significantly increase your chances of success.
Learn more about the position
Oftentimes people are desperate to get a job and they tend to neglect all the negative information coming their way.
Certain jobs can be much worse than they look initially. Make sure to ask around about the position.
- When was the job opening first posted?
- Is it the first job opening of this kind for that company?
- What happened to the previous person who applied for the job?
- What is expected from you?
If you get more information about the job, it will be easier to modify your cover letter. With this knowledge, you can give the company exactly the person they’re looking for.
Use an appropriate language
As mentioned, language has to be adapted to the company. Not only do you need to show that you’re sharing the same values but you need to use lingo that is common within the industry. This shows that you have experience working on similar jobs and that you can quickly become a part of the team.
In terms of professionalism, you will also have to adapt. Some jobs and companies are more relaxed, so you might want to consider using a more casual phrasing. For jobs that allow less creativity, make sure to sound rigid and disciplined.
Use visual aids
Now, you don’t have much leeway when it comes to creating cover letters. In the end, they need to look clean and neat. But, that doesn’t mean you cannot do anything with them. Small changes in the font can go a long way. You can also use a cool watermark for presenting personal data. Again, it all depends on the job, the industry, and the company you’re applying for. Make sure to perform tests before sending the piece and see if this is the right approach; you don’t want to lose a chance just because you took a big risk on visual appearance.
There are numerous things that need to be considered when writing a cover letter. As an inseparable part of your job application, you need to give it proper thinking and research prior to creating it. In the end, it is a document that can have a big impact on your career.
On the other hand, if these tips don’t help and you’re still not certain how to approach the issue, you can always contact our team of professional career counseling experts. We have tons of experience and are here to help you with everything you need.
Happy job hunting!