Cover letter writing tips and hacks to boost your chances of landing a job.
A cover letter is a document frequently attached to your job application that introduces you in a more personal way and compliments the information on your CV. It plays a critical role in complimenting your job application by expanding on your skills and achievements and highlighting a selection of your greatest career successes.
Unlike a CV, a cover letter lets you introduce yourself to the hiring manager, provide context for your achievements and qualifications, and explain your motivation for joining the company.
There’s a reason why a cover letter is one of the most requested application materials. This document is great at highlighting the parts of your career where a CV falls short. By using your cover letter to express your most formative experiences, unique qualities and passion for the position, you can create a personal connection with the employer before you ever set foot in the door.
A cover letter must be perfect. This guide will show you how to write the perfect cover letter, one that will help you achieve your aim – to get you to the next stage in the hiring process – an interview.
In an earlier post on writing the perfect CV we spoke about the importance of producing a visually striking CV. Well guess what, the same goes for your cover letter – we recommend professional formatting to present yourself as a polished candidate. Your cover letter and CV template are the first thing an employer will see from you when they start to evaluate your application. That’s why it’s so important to make a good visual impression.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is by matching your cover letter template with your CV template. Aligning your document styles can help you to establish your own ‘personal brand’ – a look and feel that’s consistent across all your application materials. Hiring managers will take notice of the time you invested in good presentation and consider you a candidate who is serious about the position.
Use the services of an online CV builder to produce a visually striking cover letter, consistent in style to your CV.
Don’t underestimate the ‘look’ of your cover letter to grab the recruiter’s eye during the short window that it will invariably receive.
Writing a cover letter with no name of the hiring manager available? In the addressee section include only the name of the department: for example, ‘XYZ Sales Department.’
Catch the recruiters attention immediately – make the cover letter salutation personal.
Company culture can dictate whether to use somebody’s first name or not. If you’re applying for a position with a relaxed, casual company, use the first name. For corporate cover letters, it’s safer to go with the addressee’s last name.
Don’t start a cover letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘To whom it concerns’. Use the below samples ‘to whom it may concern’ alternatives instead:
- Dear Sales Team Hiring Manager,
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear [XYZ Company] Team,
How long should a cover letter be? In general, a relevant and short cover letter is best. Three paragraphs tops. Your go-to word count shouldn’t exceed 300 words.
It’s a good idea to repeat your basic contact information, such as your LinkedIn profile, email address and telephone number below your sign-off.
How To Write A Cover Letter
Professional Cover Letter Header
The letter header of every professional cover letter for a job application should include the following:
- Your name
- Your contact details (phone number and email address)
- The date
- The name of the hiring manager and their professional title
- The name and address of the company to which you’re applying
Optionally, you can add:
- Your professional title
- Your home address
- Links to your professional websites
- Your social media accounts (applicable only for LinkedIn and Twitter)
- Your city of residence (it’s not mandatory but adds a professional touch)
Just remember to keep it professional:
- Use an email address from a respected provider—that means either Gmail or your personal domain (if you have one.)
- Your email address should only include your first and last name—[email protected] or [email protected] will be deal-breakers.
- Don’t use your current work address to send your email cover letter . It’s impolite to both your current and potential future employer.
- Make sure your contact information is consistent across your resume, cover letter, and social media profiles.
Open Your Cover Letter with a Proper Greeting
Who do you address a cover letter to? Directly to the hiring manager who’ll read it.
The greeting of your cover letter (i.e., the salutation) is likely the very first thing the hiring manager sees. That makes it one of the most important parts of a cover letter. There’s one great, fool proof strategy to make your greeting catch her attention:
That’s right. Her name.
If we hear or see our name, we react. We focus on what comes next. Once the hiring manager sees her name in the greeting of your cover letter, she’s going to feel like she’s found something tailored specifically for her. It will feel personal, she’ll know whatever comes next might just be the exact information she’s been looking for.
All of the following are good examples of professional cover letter greetings.
Sample cover letter greetings:
- Dear Mary,
- Dear Miss Murphy,
- Dear Ms. O’Brien,
- Dear Mrs. Carr,
- Dear Mr. Doherty,
How do you find out the hiring manager’s name?
Do some research!
Try these ideas before you use a generic cover letter address:
Double check the job posting. Make absolutely sure the name is not in it.
Examine the email address in the job description. If it’s [email protected], do a Google search for ‘j fottrell’ and “acme.com.” Chances are, you’ll find your manager’s full name.
Check LinkedIn. Job offers on LinkedIn often identify the one who did the posting. Also, look at the company page or do a LinkedIn company search.
Check the Company Website. Try to find the head of the department on the company’s staff page.
Ask friends. You can use LinkedIn to check if you’ve got contacts at the company.
Call. If all else fails, call the receptionist and ask who the contact person is.
Lets Get into the Letter Itself
We recommend three paragraphs:
- The first paragraph to grab the hiring manager’s attention
- The second to show what you’ve got to offer
- The third to prove that you’ll fit in
- Write a Catchy Opening Paragraph
We have written elsewhere that research says we have only 6 seconds to grab the hiring manager’s attention. The reality is that the first few sentences at the beginning of your cover letter will determine whether the hiring manager will read on.
You need to make your cover letter introduction attract and hold the hiring manager’s interest.
There are a few different, effective strategies for your cover letter opening. You can highlight your achievements, show how well you know your prospective employer’s needs, or base the intro on your enthusiasm.
- Pretend you are talking to the employer directly.
- How would you introduce yourself?
- How would you summarise your reason for writing?
- What aspects of the job appeal to you?
- Keep your sentences simple and try to avoid over-complicated language.
- Second Paragraph – Explain Why You’re The Perfect Candidate
You need to get the hiring manager exactly what she’s looking for. You have to show that you’re going to satisfy the company’s specific needs.
- Outline how your knowledge, skills and experience meet the selection criteria for the job.
- Explain how you can make a significant contribution to the organisation.
3. Third paragraph – Tell Them Why You’re Eager to Join
Your future employers have needs. If they’re willing to hire you, it’s because they think you’ll satisfy those needs.
But what they also want is for you to actually enjoy working with them. They want your future job to feel rewarding to you—that way, they know you’re more likely to stay with them for a longer period of time.
The key to writing a perfect cover letter third paragraph is showing the hiring manager why you want this job, not just any job. This is particularly important when writing an entry level cover letter. Enthusiasm and passion helps to prove you’ll hit the ground running.
Above all, you want to avoid writing too much of a general cover letter. Generic doesn’t win jobs, tailored and targeted does.
Here’s the easiest way to do it:
- Start with a company fact – for instance, an upcoming project
- Say why you find it interesting
- Reiterate that your experience and knowledge will let you succeed with the project
Make Your Offer in the Closing Paragraph
So far your cover letter shows that you have relevant skills. You’ve explained your motivation. You still have a cover letter ending to write. And it’s the decisive part.
It has to amplify the general impression you’ve made with the previous paragraphs. It has to make the hiring manager excited as she starts reading your CV.
Tell the hiring manager that you’re looking forward to meeting in person and discussing how your experience and knowledge can help your future employer in fulfilling their goals.
Use the Right Formal Closing
Once you’ve written the body of your cover letter, you just need to put a formal closing at the very end.
Write “sincerely” and follow it with your full name. Adding your handwritten signature is optional, but it’s recommended for more formal cover letters.
If you’re not a fan of the well-worn, “sincerely,” feel free to use any of the following synonyms:
- Thank you,
- Best regards,
- Kind regards,
- With best regards.