While you may be spending your time as a job seeker focusing on tailoring your resume to each position you’re applying for, you should also concentrate on writing a cover letter that will help you get noticed and land the all-important interview. “A cover letter is designed to inform and interest an employer to read on to your resume. All too often, though, the cover letter bores, offends or sometimes amuses - but not in a good way - the people who read them,” writes U.S. News and World Report contributor Jada A. Graves.
If you’re like most job seekers, you may be unsure how to write a cover letter that will make hiring managers want to find out more about you and what you have to offer. This guide is intended to teach you how to write that job-winning cover letter.
Create an Attention Grabbing Letterhead
Creating your own personalized letterhead for your cover letter is not only one way to brand yourself and stand out from the crowded field of candidates, it shows employers that you are professional and want to be taken seriously. Letterheads should always include your name, address, phone number, email and website, if you have one.
KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)
Make sure your cover letter gets right to the point. New York City job coach Roy Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide” told Forbes that he likes a short succinct cover letter that spells out exactly what type of a job a candidate is trying to get, followed by a career summary, list of accomplishments and a closing line that requests a meeting.
If you favor a longer cover letter, still try to keep it to four paragraphs using the same approach as the shorter format. You can also use bullet points if you want to list your achievements that are relevant to the specific job.
Whenever you can, you should always address the hiring manager personally, and avoid the standard "To Whom It May Concern" opening. Finding out the person’s full name and title will show prospective employers that you’re enthusiastic about the opportunity.
If you know someone at the company or an industry professional who may have told you about a job opening, a cover letter’s opening sentence is the perfect place to mention your contact: “XXX suggested I get in touch with you regarding XXX job.”
While industry keywords should always be included in your resume, it’s a good idea to include some in your cover letter as well. It shows you have a solid understand of the job and will help you stand out among other applicants.
Louise Kursmark, author of the “15-Minute Cover Letter,” says that typos and misspelled words are some of the biggest mistakes you can make when writing your cover letter. “Your letter is an indication of your communication skills,” he says. “If you can’t write a letter for a job, what are you going to do when you're writing emails, or speaking to people on the telephone?” Bottom line, always ask a friend or former co-worker to proofread your cover letter before hitting the send button.
LiveCareer’s Cover Letter Builder
The content of your cover letter is only half the battle. Once you learn how to write a cover letter, you still need to the right tool to format, edit and save it. We designed LiveCareer’s Cover Letter Builder just for that purpose.