Don’t Forget to Write a Cover Letter – They Are Still Important
It is still important to include a cover letter with your resume, even if you’ve heard otherwise.
The only time it wouldn’t be prudent to include a cover letter is if a hiring manager has explicitly told you not to send one.
What Is a Cover Letter? What does It Do?
An engaging cover letter should tell the story of your passion for a position and how your experience will assist you in your future work. Often, good cover letters can end up repeating your resume no matter how hard you try to make them sound different. A good cover letter is a one-page document written like a letter that you send as an introduction to your resume.
To be considered for almost any position, you will need to write a letter of application. Such a letter introduces you, explains your purpose for writing, highlights a few of your experiences or skills, reveals how effectively you can communicate, and requests an opportunity to meet personally with the potential employer. This letter is your introduction to an employer, and because first impressions last, you should take great care to write an impressive and effective letter. The prospect of writing a cover letter can seem like a challenging task, but it does not have to be one. By taking it one step at a time, you can ensure that your cover letter will be drafted, written and sent off without much stress – and with a good chance of success.
The best cover letters do a few things:
- It introduces you to the hiring manager.
- It explains why you are applying for the job.
- It explains how you are right for the job.
- It gives you a place to explain things like gaps in your job history or reasons for changing your career.
Do you have gaps in your work history, or are you in the middle of a career change? Well, a successful cover letter will provide an explanation for these things in a way a resume can’t. A covering letter is also the best place for you to go into detail about how you are going to meet the needs of the company. It should also explain why your skills, achievements, and personality are a good fit.
The Elements of a Successful Cover Letter
- Your Contact Information and Date
- The Employer’s Contact Information
Erik Devaney, a content strategist at Hubspot, writes about the use of personalisation in marketing and the advent of customised content. He points out that that personalization gives us two things:
- a sense of control
- a solution to information overload
Let’s say a hiring manager is reading your awesome cover letter. They see that the greeting is addressed directly to them. Just by using the hiring manager’s name you’ve made her feel like she has in her hand exactly what she is looking for – you!
So, how do you find out what the hiring manager’s name is?
- First, check the job description. Sometimes the hiring manager’s contact information will be provided there.
- If not, try contacting the company via phone to find out to whom you should address your cover letter. It is best to call the company instead of sending an email.
- The next course of action is to check the LinkedIn profiles of Human Resource managers from the company. It is better to address a person from the company than no one at all.
- If in the end, you cannot find the name or contact information of the person who will be reading your resume, write “Dear Hiring Manager” as your greeting. Simply put the company’s information in the contact section.
The only greeting you want to avoid is “To whom it may concern.” The entire purpose of a good cover letter is to add a personal touch to your documents and “To whom it may concern” is not personal.
Subject line: Indicate the purpose of the letter and the position for which you are applying.
A salutation is the greeting you include at the beginning of a cover letter. Include the employer’s personal title and full name in the salutation. Find the name of a relevant employee to whom you can address your cover letter. Do not just choose a random individual, but if you can, find someone in Human Resources – preferably a director or manager, or someone on a higher level within the department to which you are applying. If you are unsure of who will be reading your cover letter, use a general salutation, such as:
- To Whom It May Concern
- Dear Human Resources Manager
- Dear Sir or Madam
- Dear (Company Name) Recruiter
First paragraph: This is the opening paragraph. State the position for which you are applying and where you found the job posting or who recommended that you write the letter. Provide a brief indication of who you are (e.g. a final-year student at CUT), and also mention the course for which you are enrolled.
After the greeting, you will want to write a personable introduction that will catch the attention of the recruiter. Start by explaining what position you are applying for and how you came to find it.
You can add basic information about yourself like your degree and area of study, or your career goals that are in line with the goals of the company.
Write an introduction that shows your enthusiasm and knowledge about the company.
Like this: I am excited to apply for the position of Marketing Manager at Pie in the Sky. The company has become a success story because your marketing team understands how the combination of humor and digital marketing techniques sparks viral content and speaks to the Internet generation. As a creative person, I wish to use my writing skills and knowledge of trends and humor to help Pie in the Sky continue to “wow” it’s audiences with superior content.
Second paragraph: This is known as the body of the cover letter. Explain why you are qualified for the position. Highlight the experience, skills and attributes that make you a perfect candidate for the position. Do not restate your entire résumé; rather focus on the most important factors that make you desirable.
The second paragraph, or the body of the cover letter, are where you give the hiring manager exactly what they want.
What do they want? They want you to show them how you are going to meet their needs and solve their problems if they hire you.
How do you know what they need? It’s all written in the job description.
Every skill they list and trait they ask for is something they need. The best candidates know that the key to writing a great cover letter for a job application is to use keywords and phrases from the job description.
Start by choosing two or three of your strongest skills and achievements that match the most crucial skills listed in the job offer. Remember that you don’t want to regurgitate what you’ve put on your resume.
Next, you will want to fit these skills and achievements into the context of your previous, relevant work experience.
The first line should explain the basic details of your previous job: Where + Title + How Long
For the past three years, I have been working as a Chief Animal Wrangler for Perky Pets.
The next few sentences go into the responsibilities, projects, or achievements you’d like to highlight as a part of your work. Here is where you do the tailoring.
Choose a few responsibilities that fit with what you will be doing at your new job.
As Chief Animal Wrangler, I am responsible for training various types of animals for roles in blockbuster Hollywood films, as well as rehearsing with them and providing them with cues.
Third paragraph: Indicate how you will conduct a follow-up. Politely request an interview at the employer’s convenience. Indicate which supplementary material is being sent under a separate cover. Offer to provide additional information (a portfolio, a writing sample, a sample publication, a dossier, an audition tape), and explain how it can be obtained. Thank the reader for his/her consideration, and indicate that you are looking forward to hearing from him/her.
Add a few more lines explaining how everything you wrote will translate to success in your new role.
I have a reputation in the industry for handling some of the calmest, most well-behaved animals. My inner sense of poise and self-confidence allows animals to develop a strong bond and sense of trust with the human actors that they work with on set.
Always try to use facts and figures to draw attention to important information and to give the hiring manager a tangible sense of what you are capable of doing.
Over the course of my employment with Perky Pets, there were zero incidents of the animals failing to meet the requirements of their roles. All of the animals passed stress and health exams 100% of the time.
The second and third paragraphs are also where you may want to explain why you have decided to make a career change or why there is a gap in your work history. A successful cover letter will tell the story that a resume can’t.
Regardless, you will want to tailor the content to meet the needs of the recruiter.
Complimentary closing: This is the term prior to your signature in the letter. A complimentary close shows your respect and appreciation for the person who is considering your request. Complimentary close examples include:
- Respectfully yours
- Yours sincerely
- Yours faithfully
The last paragraph or conclusion of the best cover letters include a call to action:
Something like: “Give me an interview!”
If you’ve done your job, this last bit doesn’t need to be fancy. At the same time, it is the last impression you will make on the hiring manager. So don’t leave a bad taste in their mouth. Be confident and enthusiastic.
Signature: This can be a handwritten signature (for a hard copy letter) or a typed signature.
Brief overview of what information to include:
- Repeat why you will be a good fit for the company and benefit them.
- Write that you will be looking forward to an interview and will follow up with them in a given amount of time.
- Include your phone number once again and when you can be contacted.
- Thank them for their time and consideration.
I feel that my 10+ years in sales and customer service will allow me to help XYZ reach the ambitious sales targets set for the upcoming year. I look forward to discussing our opportunities at an interview. I will follow up within a week from now, and I can be contacted any time during the week at 419-564-6868. Thank you once again for your time and consideration.
Writing a good cover letter is still a necessary part of applying for a job. Some hiring managers may not take the time to read your cover letter. Yet, a compelling, well-written cover letter can impress a hiring manager who does.
That’s why it is important to:
- tailor your cover letter to the job offer
- use your cover letter to tell a story that your resume can’t
- address your cover letter directly to the hiring manager.
Taking the time to do these things could be the difference between getting called in for an interview or having your resume ignored.
How to match your qualifications to a job description
Most people struggle with paragraph two – what to include, how to market themselves and how to convince the employer they are the best candidate. Top tips:
- Read through different job advertisements and make a list of the requirements and skills mentioned in these advertisements.
- Create a table with two columns. In the first column, list the different requirements/skills the employer has listed, and in the second column, make strong connections between your abilities and the employer’s needs. Mention specifically how your skills and experience correspond with these requirements. Whenever possible, indicate any positive results or recognition you received while applying the skill. Remember to continuously update this table with new job requirements and new skills and experience you have acquired.
- Analyse the job posting and see where your own experience best matches up. Go to your “skills” table and copy and paste from your skills in the second column. The points you choose should be the ones that are most significant to the position, but also the ones that provide specific examples and compelling anecdotes about your experience.
- Use several shorter sentences/paragraphs or bullets rather than one large block of text, so that your letter is easy to read.
Updated: 21 August 2017