9 Little-Known Tips for Writing a Cover Letter
The secrets of a winning cover letter revealed
Writing a winning cover letter takes time, research and advanced writing skills. Moreover, most job-seekers find creating a cover letter tedious. Resume writing is an elaborate process with clear directions on length, sections, and writing style. Cover letter writing allows for more creativity, which confuses even the experienced job seekers.
Applying with a resume alone is not a solution. 45% of recruiters don’t consider resumes without cover letters, and many job postings specify that the company expects to receive a cover letter. There’s also an ongoing debate on whether hiring managers read those letters at all. But, in either case, taking the time to craft an excellent letter will increase your interview chances. And today’s guide from our top resume writers will help you with it.
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How to write a letter that will beat the competition?
Most cover letters look pretty much the same. They use a standard opener followed by a reiteration of the strengths and experiences from the resume. They are packed with clichés top to bottom. And they barely make an attempt to explain what makes your experience unique and valuable as opposed to that of other applicants.
If you are eager to make your cover letter memorable, worry no more. Today, we’ll guide you through less known techniques and tips for writing.
1. Address the hiring person directly
Letters that start with an obsolete ‘To whom it may concern’ hardly can make a professional impression. In the era of social media and corporate websites, it’s easy to research who is responsible for hiring within the company, and address this person by the name. If web search and browsing LinkedIn didn’t make it clear for you, consider emailing or calling to the company to ask the hiring manager’s name.
Also, it’s recommended that you send your application directly to the hiring person’s email. Little job-seekers use this tactic, so you’ll get more attention and consideration than if you were applying through the job site.
2. Find a referral within the company
It’s not a secret that the best jobs are filled through networking. Little things can be as effective for getting you noticed among the dozens of other candidates as having someone to put in a word for you to the hiring person or a head of the department. If you have such an acquaintance, great! (If you don’t, try finding someone through LinkedIn).
In your letter, mention that this job was recommended to you by this person. Include a person’s name and tell that they consider you a great match for the role. Be sure to reach out to your acquaintance in advance to make sure they are willing to give you a reference, though.
3. Start with a strong lead
A cookie-cutter opening sentence that says you want an A position in B company dread hiring managers. They see it as a predictor that the rest of the letter will sound just as formal and boring. And, since hiring managers are short of time, they are less likely to read the letter top to bottom if they don’t find the opening paragraph intriguing.
The solution? Use a non-traditional, creative opening statement. Tell a story of how you were excited by video games from this company as a kid, and would like to develop games with their team. Mention the referral within a company as suggested above. Show that you share the company’s passion for saving the environment. These openers will keep the reader interested in what you have to offer.
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4. Customize a letter for each job
Since many job-seekers dread writing letters, they often write one copy and send it everywhere along with the resume. Some go even further, copying and pasting the example from the internet. Needless to say that neither approach will help you get noticed. Generic letters don’t explain how your skills can be of use for this particular company. Writing a new letter for each job may sound like a lot of work, but it’s the only way to make them informative and literally make the hiring manager buy into you.
By the way, our website offers affordable custom letter writing. Send us your resume and a job posting, and the writer will create a targeted letter that focuses on your strengths.
5. Don’t paraphrase your resume
You may have heard it a thousand times before, but even the top professionals continue making this mistake. A cover letter is meant to complement the resume rather than repeat it in different words. For example, in a resume for an administrative assistant job you’ve mentioned the experience managing files and databases. In a cover letter, you can go further and describe that you’ve introduced the electronic filing system that reduced the retrieval time by 25%.
Choose 2-3 qualifications that are the most important for your target job and prove them, providing the examples, context and accomplishments.
6. Don’t apologize for missing qualifications or skills
Little of us meet the 100% of qualifications that the job postings call for. For instance, a job ad might state that the ideal candidate should have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature or Journalism. If you don’t have a degree in this field, omit this subject in your letter. Instead, focus on qualifications and experience you do have and how they have prepared you to excel in this role.
There’s one exception from this rule, though. If you are returning to the workforce after a long break or making a career change, you absolutely should explain this situation in 1-2 sentences. But still don’t make excuses a central point of your letter – focus on your strengths in any case.
The same rule works if you’re a student or graduate with little experience. Finding a job after graduating is easier than you may think – just follow our expert tips.
7. Adjust your tone of voice based on the company culture
On the internet, you’ll find much advice regarding the tone of voice of your letter. Some insist that you keep it formal, whereas others suggest writing as you speak and using anecdotes. In fact, the only criterion you should pay attention to is the corporate culture of your target employer. Are you applying to the financial corporation, government or an advertising agency? Obviously, the writing style will be different in these three cases.
Career experts recommend that you browse their website and social media to get an idea of how people in this organization communicate. Adjust your letter accordingly – this will immediately show your culture fit.
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8. Keep the company needs your focal point
It’s great if you have the amazing accomplishments that can be added to your letter. Yet, the central idea of the letter is how your skills can be useful for the company. One of the best ways to do it is to suggest the hands-on solution for one of the company’s current challenges. Browse the company’s website, news about them or even financial statements. Offer a strategic solution that could help the company save money, increase profitability or enter the new market, depending on your qualification. If you propose a practical solution and offer your services, there’s every chance that they offer you a job.
Are you applying to the company with strict corporate culture? Make sure you’ve learned the proper work etiquette.
9. Be mindful of formatting and design
It might sound obvious that the cover letter should look neat. Yet, a number of peculiarities in formatting can make or break the success of your letter. Firstly, the letter shouldn’t be longer than one page – around 350 words will suffice. Secondly, remember to use any graphics or pictures off the letters. Emoticons, gifs, pictures or other casual design elements are just not professional. Finally, use links wisely. It’s okay to add a link or two to your portfolio and other online resources, but it makes no sense to attach links to all your online profiles. Last but not least, the font. Keep the font size readable, and stay on one of the popular sans-serif fonts.
Bonus: The best places to look for a job
Once you’ve written a cover letter, it’s time to think over where to submit it. Below, we’ve picked the best places when you can apply for jobs:
✓ Online job boards – such resources as Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com and Monster.com are go-to job search resources for many professionals. Here, you can browse jobs by location, type of employment, salary, etc. Although they offer a plenty of jobs to choose from, it’s more difficult to get noticed as the number of applicants is big, too.
✓ Private employment agencies – these agencies collaborate with employers directly. Moreover, some companies prefer finding employees through staffing firms only. Thus, by using an agency, you’ll get access to jobs you won’t find anywhere online. Yet, keep in mind that the agencies are interested in filling the position quickly, not your personal job search success.
✓ Asking for leads – this method assumes reaching out to your former coworkers, friends, and community to wonder if they know the company where your skills could be in demand. This method is more effective than applying through job boards. If your resume is handed to the hiring manager directly, they will give it more consideration.
✓ Reaching out to employers directly – how about making a list of target employers and offering your services without middlemen? You can talk to a company representative directly and discuss how your experience and skills can be helpful. This method requires persistence, yet it also guarantees good results. However, keep in mind that it will mostly work with small and mid-sized businesses.
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