We get it, job hunting is exhausting. You spend hours researching roles, updating your resume, and then there's the need for a cover letter each time you apply for a position. Some candidates say the cover letter is the most challenging part when applying for a job. But do they even get read? The answer is yes and many hiring managers believe it's the best way to get to know a candidate before interviewing them.
So, what is a cover letter? Unlike a resume, a cover letter is a personal introduction to the hiring manager. It’s a separate document that you should attach to a job application with your CV, providing context about your background, achievements and qualifications, and explaining why you're interested in joining the company.
And how do you write the ideal cover letter?
1. Right place and time.
Make sure you're in a quiet environment where you can focus and that you have enough time to write. A cover letter is usually a short letter, 3 to 5 paragraphs long, but it needs to be impactful.
2. Do your research.
Read the job description, highlight the main keywords related to the job to be performed, so you can use those words when describing your relevant experience. Check the hiring company's website and social media profiles, this will teach you about their values, culture and you'll be able to identify if you'd be a good fit in their team and why.
3. If possible, be specific.
If you know the name of the hiring manager, address the letter to them. If you don't know their name, you can still research online and find out the name of the person in charge of the hiring process. If you can't discover this information, you can start your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’.
4. Write an attention-grabbing introduction.
Think about the first paragraph as a movie synopsis - if it's not good enough to make people interested, people won't choose to watch the full movie. This is your time to shine, write a short paragraph selling the best things about you. Highlight your achievements, display your passion and enthusiasm so the hiring manager wants to continue reading to know more about you.
5. One or two paragraphs to show why you’d be a great hire for this job.
Time to write about what you'll bring to the company and role - and back it up with evidence! Remember the research we suggested to you on step 2 of this list? Grab those keywords you highlighted in the job description and match your skills and experience to those requirements. Demonstrate that you have successfully performed those tasks in the past and support this with relevant examples of your achievements to demonstrate you have what the employer is looking for.
6. Sign-off professionally.
Finish with a strong conclusion, summarize why you think you're the right person for the job, thank the reader for their consideration and confirm you're looking forward to discussing the role further.
7. Avoid these common mistakes:
- Don't make it too long, keep it succinct.
- Don't try to be funny, keep the focus on your career.
- Don’t talk about the salary or other types of demands.
- If the company asks for the CV and cover letter in a specific format, ensure you're following the right directions.
Read your letter to revise what you've written, check for any typos and opportunity to improve the message. Also, double check the formatting: use the same font type and size throughout the document and left-align all your content.
If you'd like to see some examples and understand how this type of structure can work for different roles, Indeed offers a set of very helpful templates.
Once you're ready to apply for a new job, don't forget to check out the open positions at Shiftfillers!