At my last job, I read hundreds of cover letters and resumes and interviewed dozens of candidates. I learned what works and what doesn’t. Here are my tips for writing a cover letter that hiring managers actually want to see.
1. Tailor your cover letter for a specific job: When a hiring manager is looking at your cover letter he or she wants to see why you are the perfect candidate for the position. You need to show that you have the skills and experiences necessary to succeed in the role. One way to do this is to read the job description carefully and mirror some of the language used. Think about what they want and draw parallels between your skills and the job requirements.
2. You need to show four things:
- Why you are writing: Mention the position you are applying for and how you found out about the opening. If you know someone at the company mention it within the first few sentences.
- Why you are interested in working there: Demonstrate that you understand the organization and its mission.
- What you can do for them: Show why you will succeed at the role and how you will bring value to the organization.
- Logistics: Explain how they can reach you and thank them for considering you for the position.
3. Don’t repeat your resume: The hiring manager has your resume. Don’t repeat it. The hiring manager isn’t reading your cover letter to find out where you worked and went to school. The hiring manager is reading your cover letter for a quick introduction to who you are and an explanation of why you will be an asset to the company. Your resume can’t explain your enthusiasm for the company or any soft skills you have – the cover letter is a great place to do both!
4. Be yourself: Use clear, concise sentences. Don’t just say you are a team player or that you are diligent, show it by telling a story about a time that you exhibited those traits. Don’t use overly formal language or overly formal and awkward sentence structures. Use language you would normally use. I’ve read so many letters that are overly formal and they often come off as both inauthentic and confusing.
5. Details matter: Always address the letter to someone. Don’t use a generic opening like “To Whom It May Concern.” Use the company website or LinkedIn to find out who the hiring manager is and address the letter to that person. Proofread for typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors. Keep it to one page. Don’t write a novel. I remember being so impressed by one cover letter because the person printed the cover letter, signed it, then scanned it and sent it to me. Little things can go a long way.
Good luck! I’d be happy to look over your cover letter. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What tips would you add?
*Images: Adapted from Ashley Ella Design.