How To Write a Cover Letter

Cover Letter Basics

Most employers want to see that you’re truly excited about the specific position and company—which means creating a custom letter for each position you apply for

While it’s okay to recycle a few strong sentences and phrases from one cover letter to the next, don’t even think about sending out a 100% generic letter

Include the Hiring Manager’s Name – The most traditional way to address a cover letter is to use the person’s first and last name, including “Mr.” or “Ms.” (for example, “Dear Ms. Jane Smith” or just “Dear Ms. Smith”)

If you know for sure that the company or industry is more casual, you can drop the title and last name (“Dear Jane”). And if you’re not 100% positive whether to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” based on the name and some Googling, definitely skip the title

Never use generic salutations like “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”—they’re stiff, archaic, and did we mention that cover letters need to be customized?

Go Beyond your Resume – A super common pitfall many job seekers fall into is to use their cover letter to regurgitate what’s on their resume

Don’t simply repeat yourself: “I was in charge of identifying and re-engaging former clients.” Instead, expand on those bullet points to paint a fuller picture of your experiences and accomplishments, and show off why you’d be perfect for the job and the company

Having trouble figuring out how to do this? Try asking yourself these questions:

What approach did you take to tackling one of the responsibilities you’ve mentioned on your resume?

What details would you include if you were telling someone a (very short!) story about how you accomplished that bullet point?

What about your personality, passion, or work ethic made you especially good at getting the job done?

Think not what the Company can do for you – Another common cover letter mistake? Talking about how great the position would be for you and your resume

Hiring managers are aware of that—what they really want to know is what you’re going to bring to the position and company

Try to identify the company’s pain points—the problem or problems that they need the person they hire to solve

Then emphasize the skills and experience you have that make you the right person to solve them

Highlight the right experiences – Typically the most important requirements for the position will be listed first in the job description, or mentioned more than once

Showcase your skills – When you know you have the potential to do the job—but your past experience doesn’t straightforwardly sell you as the perfect person for the position—try focusing on your skills instead

Don’t apologize for your missing experience – Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, emphasize the strengths and transferable skills you do have

Throw in a few numbers – Hiring managers love to see stats—they show you’ve had a measurable impact on an organization or company you’ve worked for

That doesn’t mean you have to have doubled revenue at your last job. Did you bring in more clients than any of your peers? Put together an impressive number of events? Made a process at work 30% more efficient?

Those numbers speak volumes about what you could bring to your next position, and make your cover letter stand out

Consider testimonials – Used sparingly, great feedback from former co-workers, managers, or clients can go a long way toward illustrating your passion or skills

Be open to other formats – If you’re applying to a more traditional company, then the tried-and-true three-to-five-paragraph format probably makes sense

However, if you’re gunning for a more creative or start up job—or need to explain to the hiring manager, say, how your career has taken you from teaching to business development—a different approach could be appropriate

Cut the formality – Even when you’re applying for a very corporate role, there’s usually room to express yourself in a conversational, genuine way

Write in the company’s voice – Cover letters are a great way to show that you understand the environment and culture of the company and industry

Spending some time reading over the company website or stalking their social media before you get started can be a great way to get in the right mind set – you’ll get a sense for the company’s tone, language, and culture, which are all things you’ll want to mirror as you’re writing

Go easy on the enthusiasm – Downplay the adverbs a bit, and just write like a normal person

Don’t let your fear of bragging get in the way – If you tend to have a hard time writing about yourself, here’s a quick trick: What would your favourite boss, your best friend, or your mentor say about you? How would they sing your praises? Then write the letter from their point of view

Keep it short and sweet – There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page

Finish strong – Your closing paragraph is your last chance to emphasize your enthusiasm for the company or how you’d be a great fit for the position

For example, you could say: “I’m passionate about [Company]’s mission and would love to bring my [add your awesome skills here] to this position.”

Edit your Cover Letter – Set your letter aside for a day or even a few hours, and then read through it again with fresh eyes—you’ll probably notice some changes you want to make

You might even want to ask a friend or family member to give it a look

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