Cover Letter Tips to Strengthen Your Job Search in 2016
In Job Search
January 5, 2016
First impressions are important, especially when looking for a job. Here are some cover letter tips to assist with your search.
Imagine it like clothes or muscles for your resume; your cover letter should make a memorable statement in the minds of those who are interested, so they want to see what’s actually on the inside (your resume). A carefully crafted cover letter can be your foot in the door for an interview you really want. That is why we made a list of our best cover letter tips.
Cover letters can seem like a lot of extra work, and I know the thought of writing one can be daunting, but if you put forth the effort to make one, it will show your prospective employer that you’re serious about the job; many employers, in today’s job market, won’t even look at resumes without a cover letter.
In the following article I will explain what a cover letter is and go over important cover letter tips, to show you how to make the most of your one-page chance at a good first impression.
Cover Letter Tips:
1. Be Conscious of the Contact Info
It seems simple enough, but many people do crazy things with their personal info, like adding pictures, aligning it in weird spots or excluding it altogether. Some people think just because they have stated their contact info before (on their resume, on the addressed envelope, etc.) that they don’t need it on their cover letter. Since it is a formal letter, you must address it as such and include your contact info one more time.
To keep it professional, the contact information should be at the top, but can be aligned left, right, or centered, depending on how you want your cover letter to look. You’ll want to include your name, address, city, state, zip code, phone number, and email address.
It’s also good to know that your prospective employer’s contact information needs to go directly below yours on this document. If you don’t know your employer’s contact info, you should really figure it out. You have too many resources at your disposal to not know their contact–unless they are just some general HR department, then just put that here. Use LinkedIn, Google, or Facebook to figure it out.
*Make sure you put their name, title, company name, address, city, state, and zip code.
Also, as a pro-tip, put the date you wrote the letter above the salutation. This gives the document a timestamp and can add a personal touch to the document; it shows you aren’t using a blanket cover letter you made last year.
2. Use the Correct Opening Salutation
If you know their name open the letter to them. “Dear Mr./Ms. (last name)” is fine for this; try to avoid “Mrs.” if you don’t know that they are married. If you can’t find their name, omit the salutation. Writing “To whom it may concern” is outdated and unnecessary. If you are writing to a department, then gear your salutation towards them.
Knowing their name is super important and like I stated above, you should be able to find it. A reader likes seeing their name and knowing that the letter was written for them. If you don’t know who you are writing to/for it will make it less personal and might hurt your chances of landing that interview.
3. Have a Great Body
A great body paragraph is key to a great cover letter. You don’t have a ton of space to say what you need, so you must be clear and concise and fulfill this cover letter’s purpose (which is to introduce yourself). You have a message and a purpose, the body is where you tell your prospective employer what you want to say.
The main goal is to tell them what position you are applying for, why you are a good fit, and why you can meet their needs. Try and stick to writing only three paragraphs for your body, sometimes four paragraphs is okay, but remember to keep it short and sweet. The best way to stay clear and concise is to write only as many sentences as it takes to convey your message.
a. Intrigue Them with the First Paragraph
In your introduction, let them know why you are writing, for which position you are applying, and where you found the job. Make your first paragraph appealing so it hooks them into reading more. A good hook will show them how you stand out and peak their interest into what you can do for them as an employee.
Ask them questions they ask themselves and then answer their questions. It helps to truly know the job you are applying to so you know the need and the market. If you know what’s happening in the field, you can better ask questions they might have. A few questions to consider:
- What’s the market look like?
- How many jobs are out there?
- Do you have qualifications that make you more valuable?
- Is there a high demand for people like you?
- Are there a lot of people as qualified as you?
Also, if you have any mutual acquaintances, this is a great place to list those relationships. Don’t be afraid to name drop. More people get jobs through acquaintances and friends than just by cold-hunting (a term I just made up for job hunting without knowing any connections). You can use acquaintances to relate to them and have something to talk about– an icebreaker on paper.
b. Reveal the Goods in the Second Paragraph
The second paragraph is the meat of your letter. In this paragraph you want to kind of brag on yourself— but not too much. You want to talk about your accomplishments, what you’ve done, how you’ve succeeded, and how you can bring your skills to the table and help your new boss. If you have transferable skills, then interpret them for the job— i.e. explain how skills that can transfer jobs can help with your new job.
Also, if you’ve done anything cool like traveling, teaching, military service, volunteering, or whaling for Moby Dick, write that in here. Employers like a well-rounded candidate that has a little adventure or service under their belt. Show how you’ve lived your life and accomplished goals; show that you’ve overcome obstacles and reached outside your comfort zone.
With whatever you write be concise and clear; try not to drag it out. Remember that the space on the paper counts. Don’t repeat what’s on your resume, but rather give instances that add focus to your resume and show your key accomplishments.
c. Ask for an Interview in the Closing Paragraph
One of the most important cover letter tips we have comes at the end, in the conclusion paragraph. In your conclusion you should ask them for an interview. Don’t be scared. If you do it with tact, you are more than twice as likely to land the interview. Try something like concluding by thanking them and asking them to schedule an interview at their earliest convenience.
Include your call back number directly after so it’s fresh on their mind and gives them a call to action. Say that you will follow-up in a week to discuss the position and to make sure they received your information. Leave it open with anticipation of a future meeting: “Look forward to meeting with you soon.”
d. End Well
After your conclusion, you need to close the letter. Make sure you have a good closing salutation. One great phrase to include is, “Thank you for your consideration” after the body of your letter. This makes them more likely to consider you for the interview because you have already thanked them for it.
Close it with a formal salutation like “sincerely” because you used “dear” at the opening of the letter. Then simply sign off. You don’t need to put a space between your salutation and your signature. Hand write your signature for hard copy and type your name for email versions.
With the new year needs to come a new cover letter. Make sure your cover letter shows the progress you’ve made and demonstrates how you want to make the most of your time to come. If you follow our cover letter tips, you should have no problem landing a new job that will help you make the most out of your 2016.
If you want to learn more about resumes and cover letters, check out our comprehensive guides we wrote to help with the daunting task of finding a job.
Let us know what you think in the comments below!