It’s Resume Month! Check back every week to see how you can increase your chances of landing a job by improving your resume and cover letter—it’s resumes, and resumes only, for this month!
The cover letter: a source of misery and confusion for job seekers everywhere.
It’s not easy writing cover letters. No matter how many times you write a cover letter, there’s really never any certainty what you’ve written is what the hiring manager is looking for—or that the hiring manager is even taking the time to read your cover letter to begin with.
With that in mind, let’s keep it simple (the first point of this post) and dive right into it. Here are five tips to writing a killer cover letter:
1. Keep It Simple, Stupid (K.I.S.S.)
Think about how many applications a hiring manager has to sort through for each posted job opening. It’s a never-ending wave, and this means each resume might have only a few seconds to make a real impact with a hiring manager before it gets tossed aside. Knowing this, you need to make sure your cover letter is simple and straight to the point. Don’t write too much, otherwise your cover letter will look like a daunting wall of text to the hiring manager and won’t get the attention it deserves.
It’s understandable that you might want to provide as much detail as possible about yourself and your work history, but you need to format your cover letter to be read quickly and be digestible. Provide bite-size pieces of information, use bullet points, and space out your content. Don’t include fluff statements or sentences—be straight to the point (while showing your personality) and include only what’s relevant for the position and company you’re applying to.
And in order to keep things simple and be targeted with your statements, you need to customize each cover letter for the position you’re applying to.
Don’t write too much, otherwise your cover letter will look like a daunting wall of text to the hiring manager and won’t get the attention it deserves.
2. Always tailor your cover letter for the position and company you’re applying to.
I know—it’s not fun having to write cover letter after cover letter. The task isn’t made any easier by the fact that you absolutely need to tailor each cover letter for the position and company you’re applying to. It takes time, but it’s a necessary step in writing an effective and killer cover letter.
Using template cover letters or generic cover letters or, worst of all, cover letters that mention nothing applicable about the position and company you’re applying to, won’t do anything but waste the hiring manager’s time (and the time you took to apply to the position).
Customizing your cover letter is important as it shows the hiring manager that you’ve researched the company and the position, and that you actually have an interest to what you’re applying for. Using a recycled cover letter makes it seem like the position is just another job for you and doesn’t hold anything of interest besides the fact that it’s a paid position.
3. Tell the Company What You Can Do For Them
Your resume is great at highlighting what you’ve done, but your cover letter needs to explain what you can do for the company you’re applying to and why you would make a great fit for the position.
Here’s what this means for your cover letter. Your statements go from:
[Here’s what I’ve done] to,
[Here’s what I’ve done] + [Why that’s important for the position you’re applying to] + [and as a result, how you can help the company grow]
You take the focus off of you, and highlight the company’s needs and where you fit in as a problem-solver.
4. Keep Education History to a Minimum
You’ve worked hard for your degrees, but what an employer cares about is your workplace experience. Unless you’re a new grad and don’t have much in the way of relevant work experience, there’s no need to expand beyond one or two sentences about your education on your cover letter.
This goes back to our first point of keeping things simple. Most people applying for the positions you’re looking at will have an undergraduate degree—as a result, the differentiating factor between applicants becomes the work history, so that’s what you want to stress. If you have a masters degree or a PhD, chances are the people applying to the positions you are do too—and it’s with these degrees that you would want to expand beyond a sentence, but it’s still the workplace experience that holds more value.
5. Sprinkle Some Numbers In
When you mention any previous positions or accomplishments in your cover letter, be sure to use some cold, hard numbers. A hiring manager might only scan your resume for a few seconds before deciding to toss it to the side or save it for a closer read later on. Numbers will draw the hiring manager’s eye immediately, and will show him or her that you have measurable results in your work history (as opposed to generic and more vague results). If you can, use different numbers on your cover letter than the ones listed on your resume, as you don’t want to simply repeat your resume on your cover letter.