How to Write a Cover Letter - Step-by-step Guide
Cover Letter Writing Guide for Your 2019 Job Application
You know it. And we know it. No one enjoys job-hunting.
Along with updating your resume and nervously preparing for interviews, writing distinct Cover Letters for each position can be tiresome and challenging. It’s no wonder the Novorésumé community regularly asks us how to write a Cover Letter.
Don’t worry, you can find out everything you need to write a strong Cover Letter right here.
First things first for junior jobseekers and recent graduates:
What is a Cover Letter?
Put simply, a cover letter is a short introductory letter you provide with your resume and job application to show the employer your skills and convince them to ask you to meet them for an interview.
Yes, that’s right, the purpose of writing a strong Cover Letter is not to get you the job. As this Forbes piece explains, the purpose of a Cover Letter is to get your foot in the door.
Whether you’re writing a Cover Letter for the first time or applying for a job after years at your current employer, here’s what this guide will show you:
- A good Cover Letter example – and why it works
- How to write directly to the hiring manager
- How to write a sharp introduction
- Convincing the hiring manager to interview you
- Finishing your Cover Letter with a call-to-action
- Keep your Cover Letter short – and proofread it
Why is it important to personalize your Cover Letter for each job application?
Well, many people don’t write Cover Letters that stand out. Many don’t write them at all. A Jobvite study found 47 percent of candidates didn’t write a Cover Letter for their most recent job application.
When you write a customized Cover Letter – and provide a customized resume with it – you’re already doing something more than almost half of the other candidates. You’re showing the hiring manager you’re an informed candidate. And informed candidates are seen as quality candidates, according to a recent Glassdoor survey of 750 hiring managers.
So a strong Cover Letter can set you apart from the crowd and highlight how your past achievements and skills can help the hiring manager and their department solve problems.
Here’s a quick overview of the key information you’ll need to add to your Cover Letter:
What to Include in a Cover Letter:
- The hiring manager’s name, title
- The company’s name and address
- Your name, contact details and the date
- Useful content and a call-to-action
- Keywords from the job advertisement
- A polite sign-off (e.g.: Yours Sincerely or Best Regards).
Cover Letters should complement and highlight your resume, not rehash it. A strong Cover Letter will show your personality, explain your hard skills and soft skills, and showcase your written communication.
Let’s look at an example you can learn from.
A good Cover Letter example – and why it works
1. You should write the Cover Letter directly to the hiring manager
What did you think? Let’s break this letter down to see why it works and what approaches you can use in your Cover Letter.
John includes a formal salutation and the name of the hiring manager. This is good practice. The only time you might not do this is when you know the company’s culture is informal.
What if the hiring manager’s name is not in the job ad? If this happens, then you’ll need to browse the company's website or do a company search on LinkedIn. Here’s a hint: sometimes the job ad doesn't mention a person’s name, but does provide the role title you could report to.
You can often find out who the hiring manager is, by visiting the company’s website or by doing a Boolean search on LinkedIn for that role title and company,
If your research still leads you to a dead end, don’t worry. It’s OK to make an informed guess. Be as accurate as possible and use a greeting that shows you’re writing the Cover Letter to a particular person in the right department of the company.
2. You should write a sharp introduction
Look at John’s letter again. He doesn’t open with a fluffy statement or ask if the hiring manager is having a good day. His letter cuts to the chase and explains his credentials and experience.
This is why your opening paragraph is one of the most important parts of your Cover Letter. So take the opportunity to mention your most valuable skills and link them to the keywords and duties in the job ad.
If you’ve been referred by a company employee who has recommended you as a promising candidate, you should mention this too. Above all, make an original introduction that shows just enough of your personality, while using the same tone of voice and language the company does in its website copy, reports, and other marketing materials.
3. Convince the hiring manager to interview you
Onto the heart of your letter - the second and third paragraphs. After you’ve set the tone with your strong introduction, you should explain exactly how your achievements and experience are suited to the company and job.
Look at what John does. He pulls out three of his most relevant achievements to the employer and puts them into bullet point form for easy reading. Importantly, he links these achievements to real business outcomes. He mentions his experience in recruiting staff, managing operations, and delivering performance improvements in the sales and technical teams.
What’s the secret here? John is showing why he’s a suitable candidate, not telling them why.
4. Finish your Cover Letter with a call-to-action
You’re almost there. Now to finish strongly and leave the hiring manager with a strong impression of your candidacy. However, you phrase your closing Cover Letter paragraph, make sure to:
- Thank the hiring manager for reviewing your application.
- Politely and clearly show you’re suitable for the role.
- Include a call-to-action about an interview.
Let’s look at how John does it one more time. In just three sentences, he shows that he is qualified (by mentioning his CPA degree), expresses his interest while naming the company, and briefly thanks to the hiring manager.
If you’re looking at even more ways to end your Cover Letter strongly with a call-to-action, let’s quickly look at another example.
Let’s say you’re seeking a job in marketing with a company that’s looking for help with its search engine optimization strategy (SEO) – and you have skills and experience in SEO. You could say something like this in your closing paragraph:
“I was interested to see you’re looking to rank more keywords on the first page of the major search engines. In the past six years, I have helped four websites to rank for more than 450 high-traffic keywords on the first page. It would be excellent to meet you and discuss my SEO ideas for your company.”
The key thing that both of these examples have in common is that they link the hard skills in a resume to key capabilities in the job advertisement. A persuasive and convincing closing will leave the reader with the impression that you��re the right person to shortlist for an interview.
5. Keep your Cover Letter short – and proofread it
How long should it take you to say all of this? Most recruiters and employers say the ideal length of a Cover Letter is a single page.
What’s even more important than your Cover Letter’s length is its grammar and punctuation. Be sure to proofread every part of the letter and ask someone you trust to do so too. You’ll make spelling and grammar mistakes. You’re only human. Proofreading your letter in detail is the best way to make sure no typos or embarrassing errors make it through to the hiring manager’s desk.
Lastly, you’ll want to sign off your Cover Letter in a professional and polite way. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts for closing your Cover Letter.
Cover Letter Closing Examples
- Sincerely yours
- With best regards
- Best regards
- Kind regards
- Respectfully yours
- Best wishes
- Take care
- Have a nice day
Checklist Before Sending Your Cover Letter
DOs Before Sending Your Cover Letter
- Include your name, professional title and full contact information.
- A consistent look between your résumé and Cover Letter.
- Include your key skills/achievements.
- Include all the necessary sections: a salutation, opening paragraph, main body and a closing paragraph + call to action.
- A balance of the white space used. Not too much, nor too little.
- Length of about half a page (excluding your contact information and that of the recipient).
- No spelling, punctuation or grammar errors.
- Uniqueness. The Cover Letter should be personalized for one position only.
- Explaining why you are the perfect match for the job opening.
- Reuse the same Cover Letter for multiple applications. It is ok to follow these guidelines, but personalize the letter each time.
- Be vague or include cliches such as: “To whom it may concern...”, “My name is...”, “I am writing to express my interest...”, etc.
- Simply repeat the information that is available in your resume. Instead, explain how does your skills and previous achievements match with the requirements from the job ad.
- Use an unprofessional email address. Choose a format consisting of “First Name - Last Name” or professional variations of it.
- Go over one page. Employers and recruiters will value if you can write a concise and to the point Cover Letter.
- Include graphics, images, tables, etc.
Ready to start creating your next Cover Letter? Choose your Cover Letter template here and put this advice into practice. Good luck!