Research shows that around 93% of hiring managers prefer it when resumes have cover letters attached to them. It’s obvious that cover letters are still an important aspect of the recruitment process and they shouldn’t be overlooked.
Everyone knows cover letters should be customized to each position, but this takes more than just putting the name of the company and the position being applied for in the opening paragraph. Cover letters need to be targeted to be truly effective.
Let’s start with the basics; ensure that all contact details – such as telephone numbers and email address – are displayed clearly at the top of the letter. It should be easy for recruiters to get in touch with you.
When applying for specific roles, try to learn the name of the recruiter and their specific job titles, and then address your letter accordingly. If you are writing to a female hiring manager and you aren’t sure of their marital status then stick with “Ms.” And avoid guessing. Don’t forget to date letters.
Pay special attention to the spelling, grammar, and punctuation on your letter. You wouldn’t believe how many people fail before they get a chance because they didn’t use their spell checker. Ensure the cover letter has a clear and consistent design and layout. Keep it in line with the look of the resume. Don’t give recruiters a reason to reject your application before even reading it. This also means keeping the cover letter under a page.
A good cover letter is essentially a single-page marketing document. What are you marketing? You and your skills. It should explain how you can meet the needs of an employer.
It needs to have a good opening paragraph. This opening needs to capture the attention of readers and give them a succinct overview of the job being applied for, what skills you can offer, how those skills apply to the job, and why you’re interested in working for this particular company. Make the reader care enough to continue reading.
Once you have captured their attention with the opening paragraph, it’s up to the central paragraphs to ensure your success. You want to persuade readers to look through your CV and you do this by persuading them that you can give them something they need.
Use the job description and other research you’ve done about the company and role, and choose a few key selling points from the CV. Illustrate those points with examples.
If you were applying for a position in sales and marketing, then be specific about how you grew sales. What region were you in? How much did sales grow? How long did they grow for? One year? Two? Three? You can highlight this information by using bullet points.
Someone applying to be a project manager should outline what kind of project they implemented, where they did it, and that they stuck to budget (assuming they did!).
Briefly explain why you’re applying for the job. Avoid mentioning dissatisfaction with your current employer or money. Rather, focus on the positives and the opportunities you get from working with someone new, such as new responsibilities, the chance to learn new skills, and a bigger – more fulfilling – challenge. Try to convey that you want to work for a company because they have a great reputation as a good employer. Everyone enjoys being flattered now and again.
The final paragraph should be upbeat and include a call to action. Thank the recruiter for their attention and invite them to get in touch if they have any other questions, and end by telling them that you look forward to hearing from them. It’s a polite and friendly way to end a letter.