If you’re in need of career advice, you don’t want to consult just anyone—you want to talk to the pros. That’s why we spoke with some experienced hiring mangers. Below, you’ll find cover letter tips from the people who have read page after keyword-filled page of cover letters. These guidelines have come to us from decision-makers across a wide range of industries, from manufacturing to healthcare to hospitality and food service. But most of them have general advice that work for any job seeker at any level.
1. “Start strong.”
No matter what message your cover letter sends, the most important sentences will be the very first two, or possibly three. Chances are, you’ll gain or lose a hiring manager’s confidence before he or she reaches the end of the first paragraph.
2. “Be direct, especially at the beginning.”
Don’t slowly build to your point or open with lots of greetings and flowery language. Simply start the letter by stating the job you’d like to apply for and how you found out about this open position. You can be polite and respectful while still getting straight to the heart of the matter.
3. “Don’t beg or fawn. Just be clear about what you want.”
You don’t need to butter up a hiring manager with excessive praise, especially empty praise. If you’re familiar with some of his or her proudest accomplishments, you can say so, but be careful. Flattery rarely hits the mark without sincerity.
4. “Skip the empty self-descriptors.”
Don’t refer to yourself as a hard worker, a team player, a go-getter, a winner, a success addict, or a change driver. These descriptions mean nothing, since they apply to everyone in the applicant pool, and they can easily be replaced by descriptors that refer only to you.
5. “Use the second paragraph to explain why you’re right for the job.”
After a few quick introductory sentences, jump right in and make your case. Why should you be hired for this position instead of someone else? You may be a great person, but what makes you a match for this specific position, this company, its mission, and its culture? If you aren’t sure, visit the company website for a few minutes of research.
6. “Give a brief overview of your background—just a few sentences.”
You don’t have to generate a long list of every previous job you’ve held and every detail of your relevant experience. That’s what resumes and interviews are for. In your cover letter, just give the simplest outline of the arc of your career so far. Answer three questions: What got you into this field? What are the most important experiences or positions that brought you to where you are today? And where are you headed in the future?
7. “Be an effective closer.”
In the very last paragraph, restate what makes you better for this job than anyone else. Then let your readers know what to do next. Should they view your attached resume and work samples? Should they click on your link to visit your online portfolio? Should they meet with you to discuss your credentials in further detail? Invite, don’t command, but be clear about what you’d like them to do.
A Great Cover Letter Can Get You Past the Gates
Keep in mind: Every rule has at least one or two exceptions, and these guidelines are just that—loose recommendations that you can adjust to fit your own needs. When you’re ready to start writing, visit LiveCareer for a cover letter builder that will help you draft and format a letter than can open the door for a new job.