The point of a cover letter is to help a recruiter or hiring manager get to know you a bit better. Think of your resume as an outline of your career, and the cover letter as the description. A cover letter offers your future employer a deeper insight into who you are beyond your work history and credentials. It complements your resume and allows you to elaborate on your expertise, skills, and strengths. When you write a strong cover letter, you’re showing your future employer that you’re the person they’re looking for. Let’s take a look at what you need to do to write a strong cover letter.
Don’t reiterate your entire resume.
You want to include highlights from your resume that are the most relevant to the position you’re applying to, not recap your entire work history. The cover letter is the place to showcase your best strengths and elaborate on the work skills you’ve listed on your resume.
Use specific figures to quantify results.
Whenever possible, use specific figures when you’re talking about your accomplishments. Quantifiable results are much more powerful than broad statements. When talking about results you should include a percentage, a timeframe, and an action. For example, ‘Increased sales by 28% in six months by installing and using a new database and client management system.’
Just like adding quantifiers, examples make a much greater impact. Don’t just say that you are great at data management, illustrate it. Elaborate on how you use your data management skills and the results that you’ve achieved by using those skills. The point isn’t to just say that you’re good at something, it’s to show how you’re good at it.
Highlight your soft skills.
Soft skills such as communication, problem solving, and creative thinking are extremely valuable and desirable to employers. These soft skills are harder to highlight in your resume, so the cover letter is the place for you to showcase them. Mention the skills that are your strengths in your cover letter and use examples to back them up.
Explain gaps in your work history.
Your cover letter can provide a deeper insight into your job history. If you have gaps in your work history, you can offer a brief explanation why. If you went back to school, explain that you made that choice to gain deeper knowledge. If you were away from the workforce for an extended period of time, explain the real-world skills you learned in that time that are relevant to the position you’re applying to. Keep this brief, your cover letter shouldn’t be a biography.
Match the tone of your writing to the company culture.
If you’re applying to a corporate job, your cover letter should be more formal than if you’re applying to a startup. Get a feel for the company culture by reading the tone of the job posting and researching the company online. Match the level of formality of the job to the formality of your cover letter. It’s a subtle way to show the person reading it that you’ve done your homework and you understand what they’re looking for.
Your cover letter should be addressed to the hiring manager by name whenever possible. If it’s not readily available, a few minutes of googling or searching LinkedIn should uncover it. If you can’t find it, then address the cover letter to ‘Hiring Manager at (name of company)’.
There’s nothing worse than a cover letter that’s clearly been copy and pasted without any customization to the job you’re applying to. To save yourself time, create or use a form or template to use as an outline that you can customize. Make sure to include the position your applying for as well as the name of the company. Use bullet points from the job application to highlight your relevant skills or experience.
Use spell check and grammar check.
There’s no excuse to send a cover letter, or any document for that matter, that has spelling and grammatical errors. Running spell check takes 30 seconds, so make it a habit to run it before you send both your cover letter and your resume.
Even if a cover letter isn’t required, it’s worth submitting one anyway. There’s no harm in sending over an extra attachment, and it might even help boost your chances of getting an interview. If nothing else, it’s practice in pitching your strengths, a skill you can use in your job interviews.
Ashira Prossack is a Millennial & Gen Z engagement expert and speaker working to bridge the gap between generations and prepare businesses for the future of work.