A cover letter can really boost your resume, especially when so many job seekers don’t take the time to create one! While not all job postings request a cover letter, assessing how well you follow directions may determine whether your resume is even reviewed.
A targeted cover letter is also another opportunity to naturally integrate keywords from the job posting and optimize your cover letter for Applicant Tracking software. If you don’t know how to write a cover letter or don’t see the value in writing a cover letter, these tips are for you.
Determine If You Need A Cover Letter
Most mid-sized to large corporations will see an average of 250+ resumes and job applications per job opening. Most recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers won’t spend the time reading each resume. That’s why many job postings don’t request a cover letter.
First, determine if you even need a cover letter. Don’t provide an employer with more than what is requested. This advice also applies to letters of recommendation or other supplementary information.
Analyze The Job Posting
The job posting will help identify not only the requirements and preferred qualifications desired for the job but also the company’s values. These details will help you target both your resume and your cover letter.
Pay special attention to the terminology used. You should mimic the terminology used in the job posting to align your values, goals, and qualifications with the keywords found in the job description.
Start With Targeting Your Resume
Before writing anything on your cover letter, you should naturally integrate the keywords that you’ve identified in the job posting into your resume. Targeting your resume first will help you maintain a consistent message across both documents.
If you target your cover letter and use varying terminology or submit a resume with a separate focus, this will confuse both the Applicant Tracking software and the recruiter or HR professional reviewing your documents. Keep your documents consistent by targeting your resume before targeting your cover letter.
Get A Name
Your cover letter should never begin with “To Whom This Concerns” or “Dear Hiring Manager.” With the resources at your disposal, there is no reason you can’t spend a few extra minutes tracking down the name of the hiring manager who is going to review your resume.
First, check the job posting. Next, check the company’s website or LinkedIn. When all else fails, call the company and ask if you can get the name specifically to address your cover letter. This approach shows authenticity and effort. Employers like both.
Address The Employer’s Needs Upfront
Now you’re ready to start writing your cover letter. Within the first paragraph or two of the job posting, you should identify what the goal of this role is. That goal will directly identify the employer’s immediate needs. If you’re applying for a sales-related role and the job description identifies that this person is primarily responsible for developing and strengthening customer relationships, then that is a need that needs to be addressed upfront.
Your cover letter should be more focused on the employer than on your wants or needs. The first paragraph should address the employer’s immediate need by either identifying it as your passion, forte, or primary strength.
Highlight Your Qualifications
The job posting will also list the requirements or qualifications desired for the position. Your cover letter is a great location to introduce very specific qualifications such as the preferred years of experience and skill sets.
You don’t necessarily want to repeat or copy what is already on your resume, but you can use your cover letter to introduce your qualifications and how they relate directly to that role. This is also a great exercise in assessing whether or not you are qualified for the jobs you are applying for.
Use Examples From Your Resume
Your cover letter should complement your resume by highlighting specific examples from your resume that present you as the most qualified or as a candidate that will add value to the organization. Highlight any measurable achievements that relate to the employer’s needs or desired skill sets (dollars earned, percentages saved, people trained, etc.).
To keep your cover letter from becoming lengthy, condense 3-4 examples in an easy-to-scan bullet list. Start with the result and then describe which skills you leveraged to achieve those results. If you would rather focus on examples of your qualifications than any measurable achievements, start with phrases like “Dynamic marketing professional with 10+ years of experience in …” or “Strong background in …” to engage the reader right away.
Integrate A Few Transferable (Soft) Skills
Your cover letter can also include transferable skills, or soft skills, that otherwise look like unwanted buzzwords in a resume. For example, you could describe how your communication skills make you an excellent addition to collaborative teams. Limit this information to one paragraph to keep your cover letter focused on your qualifications and goals.
Some other soft skills that you can elaborate on include teamwork, managing priorities or tasks, organization, and basic computer skills that are indicated as requirements.
Ask For A Response
Your cover letter should conclude with a request. Ask for an interview or, better yet, to discuss the employer’s needs in more detail. To transition into this paragraph, identify why this role or employer is a great fit for you and encourage a response.
Don’t forget to thank them for their consideration and end your letter with a professional closure such as “Sincerely” or “Warmest Regards.”
Proofread For Typos
Before doing ANYTHING else, read through your cover letter and closely proofread for any typos. This document could be the very first impression you make on an employer, and a typo could jeopardize any chance of your resume being reviewed.
Consider asking a friend or colleague to look it over too. Another set of eyes could save you from embarrassment and silence from the other end of the job application.
Bonus: Create An E-Cover Version
The job search primarily occurs online, so a traditional cover letter is becoming outdated. Creating an e-cover version of your cover letter will help when forwarding your resume by LinkedIn message or email and when prompted to copy-and-paste into an electronic form.
To create an e-cover, save a copy of your cover letter (so you will have both formats). Select all the text and click on the Clear Formatting button. Add in dashes or asterisks to replace your bullet list of examples, and adjust the spacing if necessary. This will make it quick and easy to copy-and-paste without worrying about formatting discrepancies.