10 Tips for a Better Cover Letter

Learning how to write a cover letter that provides insight about your experience, desire to work for a company, and personality can make a big difference in how many job interviews you get. A poorly written cover letter can make you come off as lazy, and a poorly optimized one can come across as a copy-and-paste job which turns hiring managers off. Here are 10 easy tips on how to write a cover letter that boosts your chances of landing an interview.

1. Avoid copying your resume

One of the most common mistakes job seekers make is to squander their cover letter by essentially converting their resume into paragraph form. This redundancy doesn’t actually help the hiring manager decide whether you are right for the job, or convince them that you are passionate about getting the opportunity.

Use your cover letter as an opportunity to tell hiring managers what your resume can’t.

2. Skip the generic salutation

A lot of cover letters start with “To Whom it May Concern.” While this practice was once widely recommended, it has now become outdated. You can skip the salutation line and dive right in to the heart of your cover letter instead.

The exception is that, if you know the hiring manager you are writing to, you should absolutely address it to them specifically.

3. Research

You can research a potential employer by visiting the company’s website, talking to current or past employees, and looking at employer review sites such as Glassdoor.A good cover letter can become a great one if you pepper in some information based on what you’ve learned about the company. Get a sense of the company’s culture and goals, and write your cover letter to reflect how you would be a great fit into.

4. Get the opening right

Don’t waste the first sentence by stating which position you’re applying for. Instead, open with a one-sentence pitch that will convince the hiring manager they should consider your cover letter and resume.

Try a line such as, “I’m an experienced broadcaster with more than a decade of experience in radio and television production.”

Grab their attention, and make them want to continue reading.

5. Keep it brief

Three paragraphs should be enough to answer the important questions a hiring manager would want answered.

  • Who are you?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why are you the best person for the job?

If you can’t answer these questions in three paragraphs, consider recruiting a friend to help you trim the fat.

6. Focus on the company’s needs

It’s easy to get caught up in what a position would mean for you and your career. But a hiring manager isn’t interested in why the job is perfect for you; they want to know whether you’d be a good fit, and how you could help their company.

Sell yourself, and forgo the common mistake of explaining how the job would benefit you.

7. Don’t mention weaknesses

Honesty is great, but a cover letter is not a place to volunteer negative information about your qualifications. An interview will provide the hiring manager with the chance to find out about your weaknesses

Focus on your strengths, and avoid statements such as, “Despite not having worked in sales…”

You can get a sense of what a hiring manager is looking for by throwing the text of the job description into a word cloud creator such as Wordle, which will take the text and present it with frequently-used keywords appearing larger than the rest.

Determine which keywords are most applicable to your experience, and work them into your cover letter. Try Jobscan’s resume analysis tool to make sure you have effectively incorporated the right keywords into your resume as well.

8. Tell your story

How do you associate with the company? Is there something interesting you can share that describes your relationship with the company to this point?

If you’re applying for a job at a tech company, you might take a sentence or two to describe your experience as a user or customer, a favorite feature, or a suggestion or insight.

9. Customize the letter for the company and job

Don’t use the same cover letter for every application. Not only does doing so increase your chances of submiting a letter with the wrong company name (which does happen, and which immediately removes you from consideration), it wastes your opportunity to introduce yourself in more depth.

Remember, this is your chance to prove that you are passionate about working for a given company. If you’re sending out a form letter that offers no personal connection with the brand, the hiring manager will have a hard time seeing the connection, too. Take the time to write a tailored cover letter for each position.

10. Inject personality

Don’t forget to be yourself in your cover letter. In most cases, the hiring manager will appreciate reading something written by a real human being instead of bland corporate-speak.

If you asked your best friend to read your cover letter, would they hear your voice in the words? If so, then you’re on the right track.

For a detailed look at how to write a cover letter, check out the cover letter template available to Jobscan members.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.