Your cover letter is your opportunity to succinctly tell a prospective why you are the best fit for the job. Think of it as a personal marketing piece that augments your resume and encourages the reader to want to know more. A successful cover letter will convince a hiring manager that you are a qualified candidate and demonstrate why he or she should review your resume. Below, we will discuss five items that every recruiter or hiring manager will want to see in your letter.
- A Salutation or Contact Person if Available
Ideally, it would be best to address your cover letter to someone. It is important to do your research and get a name to send your letter to. Surf the company’s website, dig around LinkedIn, find someone you know at the company and ask them. A hiring manager is going to more attention to a letter delivered directly to them, rather than an “Attention Human Resources” delivered with a pile of other similarly addressed letters. In some cases, it may not be possible to obtain the hiring manager’s name or the cover letter may need to be submitted online. In these cases, it is okay to list a “To the Attention of the Hiring Manager” followed by a requisition number if available. However, whenever you can get a name, whether it be the hiring manager or recruiter that is handling candidate sourcing, it is beneficial to use it.
- Your Introduction
In your opening paragraph of the cover letter, this is the prime real estate where you must get the reader’s attention. It is where you convince the reader to keep reading. The best way to do this is to quickly get across what it is you can do for them. So instead of just telling them the obvious, “I’m writing to apply to…”, instead, use the intro to sell yourself. For example, you can state something such as, “Having designed 5 professional websites since graduating with a web development degree last year, I am writing to express my interest in [Name of Position] with [Company Name]. You will see on the enclosed resume that I have worked with top-tier eCommerce sites with challenges very similar to those of [Company Name].” This way, you are telling them that you can help them with whatever problem they’re trying to solve by hiring you for this position.
- Evidence & Achievements
The second paragraph of your letter will back up that hard sell you just did in your introductory paragraph. The information provided here should tie into your resume without being redundant. Give examples of relevant work you have done that directly relate to the types of competencies they are looking for. Take a few quantifiable achievements from your resume and list 3-4 bullets highlighting them. Make sure to only state examples that are relevant to the hiring company and role for which you are applying.
- Why You Want to Work for the Company
Be sure to include a paragraph or sentence within the letter that show the hiring manager that you have done your research to understand the company’s goals and how your skills can help them be successful. It is essential to go beyond the job description and visit the company website to get a better understanding of what makes them successful, their competitive landscape and what they can do to lead their field. Using the web developer example from above, one approach might look like this: “I’ve researched your company from a social media standpoint and see opportunities to close the gap between [Company Name] and [Company Name’s Top Competitor]. This strategy worked well for me at my last site, increasing eCommerce traffic by 25%.”
Wrap up your cover letter with a short and concise closing paragraph. Here you will quickly summarize what you bring to the table and why your qualifications would help the company. Close out your letter by requesting a follow-up conversation to learn more about the position and what it entails. Remember, the cover letter is the marketing piece that augments your resume. If you use your cover letter to specifically sell yourself for the position you are shooting for, you’ll show hiring managers that you’re worth taking a serious look at.