Writing a great cover letter can be a daunting task. A great cover letter is the introduction before the introduction and can make the difference between betting the interview and getting left in a stack of other uninspired applications. These four tips will help you get started on writing a cover letter that separates your application from the rest.
Think of it as a story.
If your resume is a timeline of your professional career, think of your cover letter as the story that accompanies it. Your cover letter is an opportunity for you to highlight your best experiences and explain to a potential employer how you’ve grown since any mistakes, such as losing a job due to poor performance. It’s also a great way to explain how seemingly mundane job experiences you had early in your career translated into useful skills. For example, a food service job you had as a teenager may have given you more discipline and the ability to keep track of several tasks at once.
Be honest and humble (but not too humble.)
Each job opening results in dozens of applications for hiring a manager to sift through, making them very good at spotting nonsense. Over exaggerating previous responsibilities, rank, or recognitions will likely immediately disqualify you from the position. Instead, point out your best traits and experiences and move on to talking about why those make you a great applicant.
Do your research.
If you were an employer, would you want to hire someone whose cover letter is generic or one that describes why they would work for the specific culture of your company? Do a bit of research about the place you’re applying to, and if possible relate your skills to the company’s mission statement. Most importantly, make sure to summarize instead of copying and pasting. You want to prove that you can think independently, not that you can plagiarize from their website.
Keep it brief and relevant
When searching for a new employee, hiring managers read a lot of material. Keeping your cover letter to one page unless otherwise specified on the application will make you more memorable than others who drone on at length. If you find that paring it down is difficult, pick the three most important parts of your education or work history to talk about and leave out anything else.
Composing a cover letter can be a challenge, but if you stick to these four tips you’re sure to stand out from the crowd. Best of luck in your job search journey, and happy writing.