Successful cover letters almost always have a few traits in common. Most important, all great cover letters are brief, they’re clearly written, and they contain all the relevant details they need while avoiding empty buzzwords and fluff.
But on a more specific level, there are a few precise phrases that appear in almost every letter that lands an interview invitation. In each case, the exact wording may vary, but the meaning remains the same. Employers need to hear these things in order to feel confident about a candidate. Find a way to work these details into your self-description.
1. What do you want?
In your rush to paint yourself as a terrific person, a genius, and a hard worker, don’t neglect the fundamental goal of your message. Clearly state the title of the job you’re looking for. Include the name of the company at least once in your first two sentences. And while you’re at it, explain how you found out about this opportunity. Employers always want to know how well their posts and recruiting efforts are helping them reach talented job seekers.
2. Where do you live?
This is especially important when you’re responding to national posts for full-time, in-house jobs. Before they invest more effort in the interview and selection process, employers like to know where you’ll be coming from. This will help them estimate the cost of moving you to this location, the transportation costs (if any) involved in the interview, and your potential level of motivation.
3. What’s driving you?
This will show up between the lines of your cover letter and resume whether you specifically clarify it or not. If money is your primary motivator, this fact will come through. If you’re ambitious and looking for ways to climb the ladder and increase your level of responsibility, this will also show. So will your genuine passion for this type of work, or your respect for this specific company. Since the answer will come through anyway, control your message by clearly sharing your central motivation for chasing this job.
4. What do you know about the job and the company already?
A little research can go a long way, and a quick visit to the company’s webpage can provide some valuable insight into the culture of this specific workplace. Let your employers know that you understand the challenges they face and you’re prepared to help them overcome these challenges and meet their specific goals. And meanwhile, let them know how well you’ll fit into their existing culture. In the modern job marketplace, attitude matters just as much as aptitude—and sometimes even more.
5. What do you have to offer than no other candidate can claim?
Of course you have a degree in this subject area, a few years of related experience, and a winning smile. But so does everyone else. What talents, certifications, skill sets, and special traits can you bring to the table that nobody else can? Use your cover letter to set yourself apart from a tight field of competition. LiveCareer’s professional Cover Letter Builder will help you make your case and find a position in the winner’s circle.