Whether you are looking for your first job in your chosen field or have been a professional for years, there are always ways to improve your chances of landing your dream job. While most people know that a great resume and a great interview are both necessary if you want to earn the job, your cover letter is perhaps even more important than either of those things. While you absolutely need a resume to get a job, and you probably won’t be hired if you don’t interview well, your cover letter is the link you need between initially getting noticed and performing great during your interview. Whether it’s your first time writing a cover letter or you need a few extra tips to land your dream job, here is what you need to know about crafting the best one ever.
What Is It For?
If you want to know how to write a great cover letter, you must first understand what your letter is supposed to do. Your resume is designed to list all of your skills, experience, and education in an easy-to-read document that hiring managers can look over to see if you are qualified for a given position. However, resumes say very little about who you actually are and do not give hiring managers a clear indication of what they can expect if they hire you. Ten different people can all have similar skills and experience and appear almost identical according to their resumes, yet they have dramatically different backgrounds and strengths. And therein lies the weakness of the resume: it’s all too brief and vague.
A cover letter gives you the opportunity to fully express yourself and go into more detail about who you are and why you are right for the given position. It gives you the opportunity to directly address the hiring manager (or the individual in charge of hiring new employees), which is an invaluable opportunity when trying to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants. And best of all, HR directors or hiring managers are going to give more time to a cover letter than a resume, so any skills and experience you list is much more likely to get noticed.
How Do You Write One?
Cover letters are, as their name implies, letters. These letters are addressed to the person or people who will be considering your application and interviewing you. While the letter style can vary according to the position you are applying for, each letter should have the following elements.
- Contact Information: Be sure to list all of your contact information in the header of your cover letter. Don’t assume someone will want to go back and look for your email address or phone number on your resume.
- Recipient Information: You must list the name and title of the person you are sending your cover letter to along with any other relevant information (including department information if necessary).
- Introduction, Body, and Conclusion: Your letter should be formatted like any formal letter or research paper. You must have an introduction paragraph where you explain who you are and what you are seeking, body paragraphs where you talk about your skills and experiences, and a summary paragraph where you formally close the letter.
- Brevity: While you have more space to work with than a resume, nobody is going to read a novel. Stick to a single page for most situations.
Just knowing the basics isn’t enough to write a job-winning cover letter (though it is a good place to start). If you want to craft the best letter your hiring manager has ever seen, there are a few things you can do to make sure you stand out.
The first thing you need to do is research everything you can about the company you are trying to work with and the individual who will be reading the letter. You should know when the company was founded, who founded it, what their primary goals are, what issues they face, and anything else relevant. Being able to discuss how you will fit in with the company’s existing structure is going to make it easier for someone to hire you.
The next thing you should remember is to focus on how your strengths will help the company. If you can explain how your past experiences have taught you the skills necessary to do a great job in the position you are applying for, the hiring manager won’t have any doubt that you are the right candidate for the job.
One last thing to remember is that you need to explain why you are excited about the position. Where your resume is about listing your experiences, your cover letter is about explaining why you are passionate about them. If you can generate real excitement on paper, the hiring manager will easily be able to feel that excitement.
The only job you shouldn’t write a cover letter for is one that specifically asks you not to (and those jobs are incredibly rare). No matter how much experience you have and no matter what position you are interested in, a cover letter is always going to help. While it might take a lot of work to research a company and learn about who will be interviewing you, it will all be worth it when you get an interview and earn your dream career.