Your eyes are set on a good job, one that will open new doors and presumably provide better pay than what you're making now. But you have to land the interview first, which means that cover letter you dread writing is not a mere formality, or something you should ever consider plagiarizing from the Internet. A cover letter is your chance to sell yourself in a way that your resume cannot. If you're looking for an example of the perfect cover letter, heed these tips to be successful writing one that will get your phone ringing.
1. Do some internet sleuthing and determine two specific things.
First--and this is important--you need to know the name and contact information of the person who will be making hiring decisions regarding this job. Using "To whom it may concern" in your letter is an absolute last resort, and signals laziness. Search the internet and poke around on LinkedIn. If you can't determine the hiring manager, find someone in human resources (or elsewhere in the company) to call and ask who's on the hiring team.
Second, you need to get a feel for what the company stands for. What are its goals? Who are its customers? What are its challenges? Is the culture informal, or stodgy? Knowing these things will help you write a killer letter.
2. Start with the proper format.
Half the battle is getting started, so don't worry about what you will write, yet. Begin by formatting your letter properly, left-aligned with line breaks between sections:
(Your Contact Information)
City, State and Zip Code
(Hiring Individual's Contact Information)
City, State and Zip Code
Dear Ms. Fredrickson, ("Dear [company] team," is passable if you were unable to unearth an actual name.)
(Body--Leave room for three paragraphs)
(Leave room for a scanned or inked signature here--about three line breaks)
Your Typed Signature
3. Customize the body of your letter to the job.
Do not use the same letter for different positions to which you are applying. Study the job description and make sure you include elements of what the company is looking for into the body of your letter.
4. Don't rehash your resume.
There's no point in repeating the same information provided in your resume. Remember, your cover letter is your chance to sell yourself as being smart, talented, good with language (which is important to many hiring managers) and a good person.
5. Let your likeability shine through.
Author Neil Gaiman has made the brilliant point that to succeed in a job you need to do good work, do it on time, and be easy to get along with. What's more:
And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They'll forgive the lateness of the work if it's good, and if they like you. And you don't have to be as good as the others if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.
So, when it comes to selling yourself in a couple of paragraphs, do your best to come across as likeable, using a warm, conversational tone (while holding to the rules of grammar, of course). And don't use big words just to make yourself look intelligent--it will come off as disingenuous.
6. Keep it short.
Three paragraphs will suffice, at two to three sentences each.
First Paragraph: Instead of using the worn-out phrase "I am writing to apply for X job," introduce yourself in a fresh and clever way. Use a quote that accurately reflects who you are, or succinctly tell a story that helps communicate why you're excited about the job in question.
Second Paragraph: Here's where the research you have conducted comes into play. Address the company's pain point and how you are uniquely qualified to help them fix it. Looking at your past experience, give an example of when you demonstrated the skills they're looking for and what kind of positive result ensued. And if you have numbers or statistics that speak to your accomplishments, use them.
Third Paragraph: Reiterate your excitement about the opportunity and convey your gratitude for the company taking its time to consider you as a candidate and review your materials. Let them know you're looking forward to hearing from them. And include an action statement which lets them know you will be calling or emailing within a certain timeframe to follow up.
7. Avoid cliché statements.
You don't know who you're competing against for the position, so it's presumptuous to say something like "I'm the best candidate for the job." Instead, highlight your character traits or skills which mesh with what's outlined in the job description. Write as if you're explaining to a friend why you'd rock this particular job.
8. Get another set of eyes on it.
Ask someone smart to read your cover letter and look for typos, weird wording and provide suggestions on how your cover letter could be improved. This is a good rule to have for any important document, especially the one which is going to land you an interview for the job you really want.
9. Do it slightly differently on email.
If you are emailing your resume to a hiring manager and the body of your email will serve as a cover letter, you need to take a more casual approach. Include the title of the job position in the subject line, which will make it easier for the person on the other end to find and categorize your message. Omit the addresses and date you would include in a formal cover letter. And your greeting can be as simple as "Hi Kate. (Assuming you've done your research and know who is doing the hiring. If not, this works: "Hi [company] team."). Also, nobody likes a long-winded email so you don't need the three paragraphs you would include in a formal letter. Use a more conversational tone and keep it short while still holding to the rules of grammar and communicating why you're a great fit for the job.