Updated: Nov 4, 2022
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If you’re serious about making a positive first impression and securing an interview, knowing how to write a great cover letter is essential. Cover letters allow you to infuse your personality and connect with hiring managers in a way that resumes simply don’t.
The cover letter is the first glimpse hiring managers get of what you’re like as a person. Are you confident? Friendly? Great at spelling and grammar? If your answer to any of those questions was “no,” now is the time to practice. The right cover letter can often be the difference between getting a called in for an interview or not.
So what makes an effective cover letter? It should do much more than just introduce you and your resume; it should directly address why you want to work for that company and why you’re qualified to do so. Check out our list of insider tips on how to write the perfect cover letter that will make hiring managers jump out of their seat to meet you!
In this article, we'll cover:
Download editable Cover Letter templates
What you should research prior to writing your Cover Letter
Ideal length of a cover letter
How to begin your cover letter
Tell your story by including these Specific items
Do's and Don't's of a great cover letter
Final checklist before submitting
Cover Letter Templates
We have prepared some fantastic templates to get you started with your cover letter.
Template #1 - Traditional Cover Letter
Template #2 - Student/Graduate Cover Letter
Template #3 - Referral Cover Letter
Template #4 - Skim-able Cover Letter
You can download them for free here:
Do Your Research, Be Specific and Show You Understand The Company
If you’re applying to a specific job, make it clear from the get-go. Before you start writing your cover letter, find out more about the company and the specific job you want. Like your resume, you want to be able to address requirements as specifically as possible.
Pay close attention to the requirements of the employer. One of the quickest ways to have your application discarded is by not following their requests and instructions. If the potential employer specifies the type of information they would like to see in your cover letter, be sure to include it.
Do some research to find out who the hiring manager is. Skip the “To whom it may concern” and try to address your letter to someone specific by name. If you have a personal connection with the company or someone who works there, mention it in the first sentence or two.
Yes, this might seem obvious, but many cover letters are vague and don’t explicitly show the hiring manager that you understand the company and the industry you’re applying to. Mention specific things that happened in the company’s past or things they’re currently doing. You can usually find this information on the company website, or you can use LinkedIn to find key updates and articles.
If the online application doesn’t allow you to submit a cover letter, use the format you’re given to demonstrate your ability to do the job and your enthusiasm for the role — that’s the ultimate purpose of a cover letter!
How Long Should Your Cover Letter Be?
Cover letters, when introducing a strong, well prepared resume, should be brief and to the point. They should not be long or filled with the same content already contained in your resume. This brief attention-getting introduction is intended to be an example of your business writing skills and an invitation to review your resume.
Have A Strong Opening
A clear, concise opening line will catch the reader’s attention. Hiring managers are looking for people who can help them solve problems, so show that you know what the company does and some of the challenges it faces. Then, explain how your experience has equipped you to meet those needs.
Show You're Qualified
If your cover letter is vague and unspecific, hiring managers will have no idea how you’re qualified for the job. So how do you show them? Remember that this is not your resume. You don’t need to list your education or work history, though you can if you want to. Instead, use your cover letter to explain how your skills, knowledge, and experience make you suited for the job. You don’t need a bullet-point list of your skills — just include a few sentences that show you know what the job entails and how you’re qualified to do it.
Tell Your Story
Telling one or two stories from your professional experience in your cover letter will set you apart. If you don’t have room for more than one (it’s a good idea to keep your letter to under one page), you can plan to share others in your interview.
The last thing you want is to have your cover letter read exactly like your resume. Use your cover letter to expand on what you’ve put in your resume. Don’t just list facts — give concrete examples of how you’ve used those skills or what your experience has been like.
Do's and Don'ts of a Great Cover Letter
You want a cover letter that grabs the attention of the decision maker and creates an opening for you to present yourself as the most viable candidate. Here's a list of do's and don't's to ensure you put your best foot forward:
Address the hiring manager - by name if you can. Then include the job you’re applying for and where you found out about the job.
Introduce yourself by outlining your immediate professional background (your role, industry, years of experience or qualifications if you’re a student or recent graduate) and explain how the skills gained from this background make you the best person for the job.
Explain why you want to work for this company specifically - possibly by referring to a project or campaign they’ve been involved in.
Bring it back to why you’re an excellent fit for the company and what you can contribute to their business objectives, vision and culture.
Thank the hiring manager for considering your application and including a call to action and how they can contact you.
Don’t send out the same cover letter for every role you apply for. Use this opportunity to personalise your application and prove that you’re the best candidate for the job.
Steer clear of ‘to whom it may concern.’ As mentioned earlier, try your best to find the hiring manager’s name and title. This is usually posted on the job listing, company website or LinkedIn page.
Remember that short but impactful is the way to go with cover letters, as hiring managers usually don’t have the time to read more than a page. Make sure that every sentence is relevant and structured. Resist the temptation to recycle chunks of your resume - instead, see this as a separate space where you can communicate your value from a different angle.
Check your formatting as well as your content. Typos and grammar issues are easy ways to detract from your skills and experience and often mean your resume is instantly dismissed. Read over your work and don’t rely purely on automated spelling and grammar checks.
Ask for an interview
The best way to end your cover letter is with a call-to-action. Finish by telling the hiring manager that you’d love to meet with them for an interview. Make it clear that you want the job and that you’re the person they should hire. You can also ask for feedback on your resume, if appropriate. A cover letter is your chance to show the hiring manager that you’re passionate about the job and that you’re the right person for it. If you don’t end your cover letter with a request for an interview, you’re missing out on a key opportunity.
A good cover letter is a chance to show the hiring manager what you’re like as a person. What makes you stand out as a person? Is there a special hobby or skill you have that you could bring to the table at work? Including these types of details in your cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd. Strong cover letters contain the following details:
Addressed to a specific person.
Brief and to the point; about half a page in length.
Mention the name of anyone referring you to that company.
Do not appear to be boastful or desperate.
Indicate knowledge of and genuine interest in the company.
Highlight two or three skills or strengths you possess in alignment with the job description.
Display confidence as a high quality candidate for the position.
Are professionally written, yet warm and enthusiastic.
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