Are you stuck deciding whether to write a cover letter for your next job application? Don’t let a job description fool you; nearly 75% of recruiters expect a cover letter even if they’re listed as optional. A well-written cover letter is a great tool to introduce yourself to hiring managers in a memorable way. Don’t skip this crucial step in the application process or you may risk not landing the interview. Start crafting your stand-out resume using these 6 tips.
1. Elaborate on your resume rather than summarizing it.
A cover letter should complement your resume rather than repeating it. A hiring manger doesn’t want to read your resume over again in a different format. Use your cover letter to expand upon your resume with emphasis on why your experience aligns with the job. Use key words from the job description to explain why you would be a good fit for the position.
2. Customize your letter for the job.
Like tailoring your resume, customizing your cover letter adds a personalized touch that makes you stand out from other candidates. Instead of an impersonal opening like “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager”, address the hiring manager by name. If the name isn’t in the job description, checking LinkedIn may help you find the information you need. It’s also important to use an appropriate tone for the company in your writing. Finding the correct voice can be as easy as exploring the company website and its social media pages.
3. Use numbers and examples.
A great way to elaborate on your resume is to back your statements up with quantifiable information. It’s important to back up your experience with context because hiring managers want to see that you can make measurable impacts at their company. Even if you don’t work directly with numbers, there are ways to quantify your experience regardless of industry. Including examples of your skills is also effective in expanding on your resume. If you listed that you are a problem-solver, include an example of how your problem-solving attitude benefited your company in your cover letter.
4. Emphasize the right experience (and don’t apologize for a lack of it).
If you’re unsure about what skills to highlight in your cover letter, check near the top of the job description, as it’s typical for the most important skills and responsibilities to be listed first. It’s essential to highlight your strong skills applicable to the job, but what should you do when you don’t meet all of the job requirements? If your past experience doesn’t line up with the job, focus on your transferable skills. One exception to discussing weaknesses is explaining an employment gap.
5. Format for visual appeal.
A cover letter should be easy to read and appealing to the eye. Keep it to a single page and use a cover-letter-friendly font like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial. Your text should be left-aligned and have 1-inch margins. Leave plenty of white space before and after paragraphs to make your cover letter easier to scan.
6. Keep it concise.
A hiring manager will likely have numerous applicants to review, so it’s important to keep your cover letter short and to the point. Since you have limited space to make an impression, don’t hesitate to go directly into why you would be a great fit for the position. Use strong actions verbs to demonstrate your experience and avoid muddy language like clichés that can compromise the clarity of your writing.
7. Proofread more than once.
Some hiring managers will throw out a resume that has a small typo. Avoid this by reviewing your cover letter at least three times to correct any grammar or spelling errors. Try reading your letter out loud to listen for issues. Finally, have a friend double-check your letter for any errors; a second opinion never hurts!