Let me tell you a simple truth. Your cover letter is the most important document to help you reach the interview board.
Unless you have an engaging cover letter, few recruiters are even going to open your resume. This means, without it, you will not even get the chance to sit at the interview.
Worry not. Here, I will show you How to Write a Cover Letter that will make your recruiter keen to invite you for an interview and help you get the dream job you always wanted.
I will also share my tips if English is not your first language.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter or a covering letter is the first document that will interact with your recruiter. As you know, the first impression matters. It is, therefore, crucial to get it perfect.
It is a three to four paragraph-long document detailing your desire for a specific job. But is not my resume supposed to serve that purpose?
So, how a cover letter is different from a resume?
Your cover letter, by any means, is not your biodata. The objective of a well-written cover letter is to make the hiring manager curious enough to read your resume and take action. It conveys your information subjectively. On the other hand, a resume is always written in an objective style.
Human Resource staffs and recruiters are usually busy people. They receive several applications every day. Most will look at your letter first and spend a few seconds. If impressed, they will open your resume. Otherwise, I am afraid; it will end up in the bin. Here is a statistics, I am reproducing from Resume genius.
So, how can you increase the chance of getting a call for an interview?
Let me tell you a secret. People do not write a cover letter seriously. Most people either write it bad or very bad. It remains full of mistakes. So, by making a few positive changes, you can significantly boost the chance of reaching the interview board.
Now, as you have understood the importance of a cover letter, how will you write one such engaging letter? What should be included? Whom would it be addressed? What are the 15 biggest mistakes which can be avoided? There are several questions, and in this article, I will answer all your queries.
First of all, I will give you some general writing tips, including things you should and should not do. After that, I will elaborate on what you need to do with an example of a covering letter. At the end, there will be links to several job-specific covering letters. I am sure it will be very helpful.
Tips for writing
Keep it simple. The secret of good writing is its simplicity. In his classic guide on writing well, William Zinsser has said: “the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components… clear thinking becomes clear writing.” Remove all the clutter and say what you want to say. A good cover letter should be a clear letter.
Check spelling and grammar. If English is not your native language, that is absolutely okay. The interviewer is not a grammar Nazi. They will not notice small grammatical mistakes.
While this is true for an interview, I am afraid, for a covering letter, it is not the case. Your writing must be checked for spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Here I recommend that you get your letter checked by ProWritingAid. You get additional 20% discount when purchased by clicking our affiliate link. It provides the best-in-class artificial intelligence-based system for writing correction and improvement. It detects grammar, spelling, punctuation errors, inconsistent writing style, and several other structural errors. Millions of people trust it, and a monthly subscription is not that expensive.
How long should a cover letter be?
Keep your letter brief. A couple of paragraphs, maybe half a page that is about the right length. I have seen some letters that are page and a half to two pages long. Firstly, it shows that the person is unable to express their message concisely.
Information about your background, qualifications, and experiences are in your resume. So, you do not need to mention that in great detail.
Also, do not tell them your long personal story. It is not what they want to know.
Sometimes, I see letters that are too short. “I would like to apply for the position of an entry-level nurse, please find my CV attached.” This says nothing and will inevitably end up in the bin.
Make it personal. Do not use the same letter for each job you apply.
Believe it or not, I have seen the same email sent to multiple recruiters. It shows that you can not even bother to write a separate document for each job. Do you think your recruiter wants to work with a person like that? Definitely not.
How do you personalize it?
Every letter should be personalized. Do some research on the company. I know it will take time. But it will be super useful. Read their website, blogs, news articles.
Gather all relevant information. Try to fit yourself according to their needs. Your mantra should be “it is not me; it is about them.”
Imagine the person is sitting opposite you. Imagine you involve in a conversation with him. Like any discussion, we do not just start talking about our achievements. The same is true in writing.
Now do your best to get the name of the recruiting person. Use Google, LinkedIn, or any other social media. If you find it, you can use the first name.
For example, “Hi Mary, Shannon Broom recommended me to get in touch with you.” If you do not have a personal connection to them, then use Mr. or Ms. + surname.
Ms. is a safe bet if you do not know the marital status of a woman. Moreover, it is polite. So use Ms.
If you do not get the name, do not write “to whom it may concern.” It sounds cold. Write, “Dear sir or madam,” “Dear hiring manager,” etc..
Of course, it is better to write a name, but if you do not get a name, do not panic. You can always personalize the body of the letter.
In your letter, there should be something that will give the impression that you took time and effort to write to them.
Now, believe me, if you do this, even if you do not get to the interview stage, you probably will get a reply.
Here is an example of a personalized note.
“I recently read online that your company is going to open a subsidiary in Rome. It seems like your company is in an expansion mood. That is great news. Btw, in addition to my other skills, I also speak Italian, and I would love to play a part in your expansion game, whether it be at home or abroad.”
Indeed it is an ideal example. Most of the time, you will not know about the company’s plan. However, advertisers often mention their prime requirements. Address that point. You will definitely get a call for an interview.
Do not say, “I have got two years of experience in business management, and I am looking for a company where I can progress my career.” Say, “I have a degree in business management which provides me a great academic background. With these skills, along with my passion, I am sure I would be a great asset to your team.”
So even if you do not have any noteworthy work experience, your cover letter gives you the chance to get them excited.
Now a few more points I would recommend.
Put your cover letter in the body of the email. If you include it as an attachment, it just adds an unnecessary step.
What I see sometimes is a letter in a letter. “I am writing to apply for this job. Please find my cover letter and my resume attached.”
Do you really need a “letter” for a “letter”? No. As soon as the hiring manager opens the email, it should be there. Please do not give them unnecessary obstacles in front of reading your application.
Let me share a personal experience where I was hiring freelance writers for one of my personal projects. I advertised it on a social media group stating my requirements. Consequently, got several responses.
But the one which caught my eyes was by Palak. She suitably used the subject line. Immediately I opened her letter and hired for the project. The same is true for any job. If you get a chance, use every bit of it. Shout it loud.
Even if you are satisfied with your letter, I would recommend getting it checked by a professional writer. There are several professional writing services available in the market. However, I found this pro service to be the best bang for the bucks. The writer has experience of nearly 20 years as a Fortune 100 hiring manager and HR executive.
Now a word about writing style. Write the letter in a formal but friendly manner. If it is very formal, you will sound distant and cold. If it is too warm, well, that is not good either. To get the right balance, try to use active sentences instead of passive sentences.
For example, instead of saying, “I was employed as a software developer for two years,” say, “I worked as a software developer for two years.” In place of “Your company has been recommended to me by Rita Taylor,” write, “Rita Taylor recommended your company to me.” Do not use “I would be very happy to meet you,” do say, “I would love to meet you.”
Do not be too friendly. Never use an emoji. Emojis are very expressive, and people use it very frequently while chatting. But you should refrain from this practice. Never use them, even the simplest one “:).”
Do not use Comic Sans, Cursive font, or Wingdings. Arial, Times New Roman, Serif are standard fonts used in the industry. Do not unnecessarily complicate the process.
Now we have looked a lot at what you should not do, but let us look at how should you finish your letter.
End with a call to action
Let’s be a marketing expert for a moment.
Did you ever subscribe to Netflix, Dropbox or Spotify? When you visit their website or see an advertisement, what do you see? A big button, shouting loud to try their service or subscribe immediately. This is called a call to action (CTA) button.
Advertisers and marketers use these buttons to convert their visitors to clients. They invite visitors to take some action. Below, I have shown a banner of Netflix for the illustration purpose.
You have to use the same strategy while finishing your letter. You have to ask the hiring manager to take action, here to ask you for the interview.
But there is a difference. You can’t use a button to create a CTA. Instead, you have to frame cleaver sentences to do the same. Let’s have an example.
“My contribution will definitely help your organization reaching a new high. With my knowledge, skills, and passion, I am sure; I will be a resource of your organization. Please get in touch with me by email, and I will be happy to attend a personal interview at your convenience.”
If you notice carefully, you will find the first two sentences are pitched to show the confidence of the applicant. The last sentence is a polite request and displays the obedience of the applicant. Together they create a perfect balance of trust and obedience, which is very important to an employer./
At a glance
- State the job you are applying for.
- Tell them who you are. Use few sentences about your work experience and educational background.
- Use a few adjectives to describe yourself.
- Make a personalized statement.
- Tell them what you can do for them.
- End with a call to action.
- Check for grammatical and structural errors.
- Optimize keywords for ATS.
- Get it reviewed by a professional.
Breaking down a sample cover letter
Here is an example. I have chosen a job in software market. To be honest I am not a software engineer and have a limited knowledge about this job profile. But it is just an example and you can adapt it to the field you are applying.
As mentioned, we should start with a proper address. “Dear Ms. Talbot,” could be a perfect starting point.
“I am writing this letter to apply for the position of a software engineer, published on your website today.” Always mention the job you are applying for and where did you hear about it. If it is an unsolicited letter, you could just say that you are applying for a vacancy in the XYZ department.
“I am a graduate in Electronics and Tele Communication Engineering with two years of experience in the field of software development and implementation. My B.Tech degree gives me an invaluable combination of skills in software development with JAVA, C#, and PHP.”
“Since my graduation, I have gained considerable practical knowledge of implementing source codes and maintaining large AWS servers for one of our banking clients. Throughout my profession, I have been reaching goals and outdoing the expectations of my employers. Do have a glance at my resume to find out more.”
So, here, I introduced myself and gave them a brief taste of my skills and experiences. I am sure; they will be curious enough to read my resume.
“I am enthusiastic, friendly, and reliable person. You will find me a hard-working, cooperative, and team leader. In my present job, I am co-leading a group of twelve employees to manage a project for our client successfully.”
Leadership is one of the most sought after qualities recruiters usually look for. If you have the experience of leading a team, whether in your office or football ground, do mention it.
“My positive contribution will definitely help your organization to reach a new high. With my knowledge, skills, and passion, I am sure; I will be a resource of your organization. Please get in touch with me by email, and I will be happy to attend a personal interview at your convenience.” This is a call to action which will encourage the hiring manager to read your resume and invite you for an interview.
“I know recruiting is a stressful procedure, so I would like to thank you for considering my application.” Thank you the hiring manager for his or her effort.
Finally, a polite sign-off that appreciates the recruiter’s efforts. If you have addressed them by name, then you should use “Yours sincerely.” Otherwise, if you have written “Dear sir or madam” then use “Yours faithfully.”
Here are links to a few job-specific sample cover letters
Cover letter for
- A Business Analyst
- A Cabin Crew
- A Civil Engineer
- A Data Analyst
- An English Teacher
- An Entry-Level Nurse
- An Executive Assistant
- An Experienced Nurse
- A Financial Analyst
- A Graphic Designer
- A Healthcare Data Analyst
- An Internship
- An Office Assistant
- A Project Manager
- A Software Engineer
- A Teacher
I hope you found this article useful. Now go and write such a powerful letter. If still confused, use our DIY visual guide. Feel free to download and use it as a guide.
I wish you all the best with your job search.
How do I introduce myself in a cover letter?
Your cover letter is your first impression. Don’t let the opportunity go away. Be impactful in your first sentence. Frame a sentence that clearly mentions the position you’re applying for, as well as your suitability for the said position. Below, I am providing an example of Weak and Strong Introductory sentence.
Look, how a simple tweak changes the impact.
You can also mention a contact in the company. This is very useful if someone has referred you.
What shouldn’t be in a cover letter?
You should avoid including everything unnecessary. Your cover letter is a precious document. Don’t waste it discussing your hobby or any irrelevant personal information.
What is the best greeting for a cover letter?
We always suggest addressing your letter to someone specific. If you know the name of the hiring manager you should use it. Otherwise, use any of the following general salutations.
Dear Specific Name
Dear Hiring Manager
Dear Human Resources Manager
Should cover letters be signed?
Not necessarily. Nowadays we usually send cover letters by email. In that case, you may avoid a signature. However, you should sign it, if you are sending a hard copy.
Should you mention your current job in a cover letter?
Definitely, you should mention it in your cover letter. Relate your current role with the job you are applying for. It will help your hiring manager to understand your importance. Please remember, experience always counts. And you definitely have gained some experience in your current job. Always use a positive tone and avoid showing your anger.
Do companies read cover letters?
Indeed, many recruiters don’t read cover letters but you should include your letter with your job application. In some cases, a well-written letter can play a decisive role to help you land a dream job.
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