Writing a cover letter can be inconvenient, and some people wonder if writing a cover letter is even important when applying online. A cover letter is an important part of applying for a professional position, even when you are just submitting an online application. Neglecting the cover letter may cost you the opportunity for which you are applying, while including one provides a great opportunity to make your application stand out.
Your cover letter is the one area of an application that gives your application life and flavor. Most of your application will be data about where you worked, what you have accomplished professionally, and what your educational background is. The cover letter provides an opportunity to show your potential employer your personality and what makes you truly unique as an individual.
Because every employer, manager, and recruiter is different, there really is no such thing as a “perfect” cover letter, but there are many principles that you can follow to have your cover letter help your application stand out.
Individualize Your Cover Letter
A generic cover letter that you can attach to multiple applications may save you time, but it won’t add much value to your application. Using a cover letter that is tailored specifically to the position for which you are applying will show that you have researched your potential employer and are invested in succeeding in your application.
Individualizing your cover letter doesn’t mean that you have to write a brand new cover letter for each application. A good way to balance out the additional time requirements of individualizing each cover letter with the need to be efficient is to create a rough framework that can be modified to contain individualized information for each position.
Do Your Research
When individualizing your cover letter, research your potential employer carefully. The internet has provided a plethora of information that you can access through LinkedIn, Twitter, the company’s website, and other sources. The ability to easily access information makes research relatively straight forward and can help you to craft a cover letter than demonstrates you are interested in a company and the position you are applying for.
When writing a cover letter, one of the goals is to catch the attention of your reader. Starting by saying, “My name is John Doe and I am applying for the position of…” is boring and information the recruiter will already pick up on pretty quickly, anyways.
Instead, start with a strong sentence that conveys your main value proposition in an enthusiastic and researched way. Starting with something like, “Hello Jane, I am excited for the possibility of working for your company, because my background of ten years in sales will add tremendous value to your team!” will have a much stronger impact on the reader and help catch his/her attention.
Make it Easy to Read
What you write is only part of what goes into a cover letter. Formatting it correctly will also make a significant difference. A cover letter should only be one page long and should only contain three to four paragraphs. Avoid having long paragraphs, paragraphs with more than three to four sentences, or overly long sentences. Also try to use the active voice over the passive voice to make your writing more engaging. Shorter, more concise letters are more likely to be read and remembered.
One technique that help to emphasize your application’s key strengths is to use three to four bullet points in the middle of your letter. Bulleted points quickly sum up important information and attract the attention of the reader. This can help to emphasize your application’s strengths in a way that will stand out, even if the reader only skims its content.
Watch the Quality
While there are many potential advantages that a cover letter can offer, it will turn into a great disadvantage if it contains grammatical or syntactical errors. Make sure that your grammar, spelling, and syntax is correct. Often, when you are the writer, you will be less likely to recognize errors that you make because you will read what you meant to write, not what you actually wrote. It is always a good idea to have another person read what you wrote and ensure that your content is correct.
One common error to avoid is errors in the spelling of the company name or the name of the person to whom the cover letter is directed. Because you are not familiar with these names, you may be more likely to misspell them. The reader is also more likely to be sensitive to a misspelling of the company’s name or of his/her own name, making double-checking these spellings even more important.
By paying careful attention to how you craft your cover letters, you will have a stronger overall application that is more likely to capture the attention of the hiring manager. The work you put into your cover letter has the potential to significantly improve your chances of getting the job that you want.