Cover letters may seem like a static institution, unshaken by trends and shifts in our culture. But the best format and best approach to the writing process DO actually change with time. While the goals have remained the same for generations – a cover letter adds dimension to your resume and tells employers a little more about you – the tone and language of your letter won't reflect the tone your parents used in their first letters decades ago.
Here are some important cover letter highlights and has-beens to consider. And for more help with cover letter writing, check out our Cover Letter Builder.
Add data and metrics to your cover letter
Data and numbers have always played a role in hiring decisions but right now, adding metrics and other results to your cover letter is on trend. For accomplishments large and small, adding information about the impact your work had on your company's success will polish your resume and make it shine a little brighter.
But what types of metrics should you add? There are a variety of way to approach adding data to your resume.
Here are some ideas:
- Add a timeline. If you hold a certain skill set, share your years of experience with that skill.
- Show increased revenue. If you helped your past employer gain more customers or sell more products, share the percentage of growth you initiated.
- Share output. If part of your job is to take customer service calls or process forms, share how many you typically handle in a day.
- Show performance. If you revamped your company's website, share how many additional visits the site received, or how many additional hits the company's blog received.
You get the idea. Numbers sharpen your statements and frame your accomplishments. Just one warning: be sure you can verify those numbers or share how you made those estimates if you're asked.
Address the specific needs of the prospective employer
Study the job ad so that you are able to speak directly to the needs of the employer at hand. Never make your cover letter generic but instead address that ways that your talent and skills can help solve problems for the company. This approach is very sought-after in cover letters and can help you get into the interview chair.
Here's an example of an outdated cover letter statement and an on-trend cover letter statement:
- Outdated statement: "I know you work hard to give your customers the best, and I can help."
- On-trend statement: "I know your company is launching XYZ product this year in an effort to gain a foothold in the youth market. I've worked extensively with this demographic and I can help you position your brand and make the launch a success."
If you don't know what your target employer's needs might include, do a quick search of the company website or skim a few online articles written about the firm and its upcoming plans.
Keep it short and straightforward
Charm and grace are always appreciated in any cover letter with a personal component; after all, your cover letter is a vehicle for showing off your personality as well as your accomplishments, skills and experience. So, there's no need to come off like a robot.
That said, don't ramble (one page is more than enough). And leave the corny jokes behind. Unless you're looking for a job in comedy writing, don't try to make your readers laugh. Pleasant and personable are in; funny is out.
Do your best to not waste precious real estate in your cover letter by spending too much time talking about your ideal employer and your expectations, or about your plans for the next chapter of your professional life. You can (and should) discuss this topic in your interview, but leave it to a minimum in your cover letter.
Big "Don'ts" for cover letter writing
Now that we've outlines what should be in your cover letter, take a look at this list of things to avoid when writing your next cover letter.
1. Don't use clichés to describe yourself
This one is high on the list of 2018 cover letter "Don'ts." Instead of calling yourself a "go-getter," a "hard worker," or an "innovative thinker," just share the reasons why you believe those terms apply to you.
As a hard worker, are you willing to commit to long hours? Have you worked 40-plus-hour weeks for previous employers? If so, share this information to paint a picture of how you operate.
If you're a "go-getter," does this mean you're always looking for paths to advancement and greater responsibility? If so, write that instead. As an "innovative thinker," have you developed any new ideas or inspired others in some notable way? If so, share those stories and leave those cliched, empty terms alone.
2. Don't talk about your needs
Do your best to not waste precious real estate in your cover letter by spending too much time talking about your ideal employer and your expectations, or about your plans for the next chapter of your professional life. You can (and should) discuss this topic in your interview, but leave it to a minimum in your cover letter. Employers want to know what you will bring to the table if you are hired, not what you need from your next job.
For the same reasons, don't talk about your salary expectations in a cover letter. You'll definitely need to lay these things out at a later stage in the process, but wait until the time is right. For now, focus on what you have to offer instead of what you'd like to gain.
3. Don't skip writing a cover letter altogether
Research shows that 45% of job seekers don't include a cover letter in their applications at all. Just by writing a cover letter, you'll automatically elevate your chances of getting noticed. Keep in mind that most employers don't see cover letters as an annoyance or a burden—far from it. Employers actually appreciate cover letters, since these simple messages provide information, detail, and clarity that can't always be found in a resume.
For support, examples, templates and writing help, you don't have to look far! Just click here and take advantage of our sophisticated, user-friendly job application tools.