A great cover letter is an opportunity to promote yourself as the best match for a position, so why not take it? A well-written letter is a valuable marketing tool that allows a job candidate to showcase skills and gain the hiring manager's attention. Unless a job listing states explicitly not to include a cover letter, consider a well-written one a necessary accompaniment to your resume.
Unsure how to build a cover letter? If you are new to cover letter writing, you'll want to brush up on how to write a cover letter to avoid some of the common pitfalls job seekers face. Here, we look at four common challenges and how to overcome them:
1. Uncertainty over format
See a blank screen and panic? Building a cover letter isn't something the average person does all that often, so trepidation is natural. Considering the power that a well-written cover letter can wield in the success of your job search, it warrants such concern.
A well-crafted cover letter leaves an impression on recruiters, so much so that in some instances it can even be the tie-breaker between two similarly-qualified candidates. For that reason, it's critical that your cover letter makes a positive impression.
When considering the format of your cover letter, be sure to include these five components:
- The greeting. Address the recipient cordially and by name (take the time to find out – using "To Whom it May Concern" is a one-way ticket to the rejection pile).
- The opening paragraph. A succinct but powerful introductory paragraph encourages time-pressed employers to continue reading.
- A hook. This section tells a hiring manager what you will bring to the table if you are hired.
- The body. This section backs up the claims you make in your hook through colorful examples and solid evidence, but watch out for rambling or presenting your entire life story.
- A strong closing. Consider your cover letter closing a summary of the information you've provided, a place to thank the reader for his consideration, and a request for an interview.
LiveCareer provides numerous Cover Letter Examples that demonstrate how these elements come together to form an outstanding document.
2. Generic writing
Good things happen when a hiring manager can envision you in the role you are seeking. That's why an applicant needs to show how and why she's perfect for the position at hand.
A job seeker must tailor each cover letter to the individual role in order to make the match clear and to demonstrate enthusiasm. To accomplish this, study the job ad to determine the most critical qualifications for performing the role and write your cover letter to address those specifically. Focusing on skills, education, and experiences outlined in the job ad, highlight those in your letter.
Such specificity, of course, takes time, especially when you are applying for multiple roles that require personalized cover letters. To save time, use LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder to make the customization process faster and easier.
3. Not considering applicant tracking systems
Like it or not, modern job hunting frequently involves getting your application materials past an applicant tracking system (ATS). These programs scan application materials and perform first-round screening of resumes and cover letters to weed out unqualified candidates before either reaches human hands. Failure to include critical keywords will result in your cover letter being rejected by the ATS, which will end your consideration as a candidate immediately.
An ATS treats cover letters as searchable text, which means that the inclusion of words and phrases programmed into the ATS is critical to making it through to the next stage of hiring. While job seekers should aim to use these terms throughout their resumes, many find the cover letter a more natural environment for their placement.
Not sure what to include? LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder suggests industry-specific keywords that will help you determine which terms are most pertinent to the role you seek. Choose from the suggested pre-written text, or use the builder's recommendations as inspiration for crafting your letter.
4. Grammar and spelling errors
Finally, remember that employers seek detail-oriented workers who will reflect well on the organization. This begins with your application materials, which offer insight into your professionalism.
A cover letter with typos, misspelled words, and improper grammar can tarnish your chances of getting an interview. In fact, more than half of recruiters surveyed said that they would automatically reject a candidate whose cover letter contained errors.
Savvy job seekers proofread everything they send. However, even the most conscientious reader can miss something. Using LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder provides an extra set of eyes thanks to its built-in grammar and spellcheck.