Though it may be tempting to skip over, a cover letter is an essential part of job hunting. It’s your first introduction to a future employer – so make it shine! Standing out from the crowd takes a little effort and maybe a thesaurus, but it’s worth it. We’ve put together some tips to help you write a great cover letter that will help you land a job you’ll love.
Why write a cover letter?
While a resume sums up your skills and experience, a cover letter is your opportunity to demonstrate to employers why you’re the ideal candidate for this job. A great cover letter will showcase your communication skills, your passion for the industry, highlight your strengths and increase your chances of landing an interview.
5 things you should always include in a cover letter
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the details required to create a successful cover letter – fear not! We’ve put together five essential items necessary to make your cover letter stand out from the crowd. When you’re ready to apply for your next dream job, consider the following before you send your application to the hiring manager.
1. Your name and contact information
When it comes to formatting your cover letter, picture an actual letter, even if the job application is online. Start with your name and contact information at the top of the letter, or directly in the header. If your email is firstname.lastname@example.org, it’s probably time to set up a new one – at least for your job hunt.
2. The hiring person’s name and contact information
Next, address the letter to the name of the hiring person. If you don’t know who that is, look back to the job posting to see if a name is available or search LinkedIn to try and determine a human resources contact. Alternatively, address your job letter to the head of the department you’re applying to. Just try your best to avoid addressing your letter as “Dear Hiring Manager” or worse – “To Whom It May Concern.” These should be seen as a last resort if you’ve come up blank after your research.
3. Your experience and accomplishments
The body of your cover letter is an opportunity to bring your resume to life, elaborating on how your experience and accomplishments meet the criteria for the role. Begin by identifying the position you are applying for, as hiring managers may be recruiting for multiple jobs. Describe two or three things you’ve accomplished professionally or in a volunteer capacity if you’re new to the job market. Include your current or most recent role early on in your letter and highlight what you achieved. It’s best to avoid generalizing and to give concrete examples.
For example, if one of the key responsibilities for the position is to manage social media, you could write: As part of a fundraising committee, I used Twitter and Instagram to generate awareness of our charity run and raised more than $10,000 for the event.
If you don’t have direct experience in a particular area, look for transferable skills and highlight those instead. Be sure to include your educational qualifications, especially if they’re specified in the job posting.
4. Your personality and passion
Your cover letter is also an opportunity to demonstrate your personality and passion. Ask yourself: why do I want to work at this company? Perhaps it’s a company you dreamed of working at since you were young, or their commitment to the environment aligns with your beliefs. Whatever it is about the role that speaks to you personally, be sure to let that genuinely shine through in your letter.
5. A call to action
End your cover letter with a call to action. It could be something as simple as, “I have attached my resume for your consideration and look forward to meeting you.” Thank the hiring manager for their time. Finally, sign off your letter with “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or “Best” and your name.
Additional tips for writing an impactful cover letter
- Take the time to write a custom letter for each job application. While cutting and pasting a generic cover letter seems less painstaking, a seasoned hiring manager will recognize the difference.
- Use the same language to mirror any key skills or competencies specified in the job description. Look to the job description to help guide the specific way you highlight your related experience.
- Avoid being overly casual in your writing. Save “Hi,” or worse, “Hey,” for texting your friends.
- As much as possible, avoid overusing the word “I” and instead focus on using “you.” After all, it’s about how you’re a good fit for the company and what you can do for them, not the other way around.
- Bad grammar or spelling is one of the fastest avenues to the rejection pile. Spell check work or run it through a free online grammar program. Double-check the spelling of anything you’re not sure of (like the hiring manager’s name!), and don’t be shy to share it with a friend, family, or mentor before you hit the send button.
- Take a tip from editors and print off your letter to proofread, or read it out loud to yourself. This way, it’s easier to catch mistakes or clumsy sentences.
Think of a cover letter as your greatest sales pitch
A cover letter is a prime opportunity to sell yourself, your brand, and your skills. You want to explain precisely why you are the right person for the job while letting your passion lead the way. A great cover letter takes time and patience to build and should take you the longest to complete out of the entire job application process. Recruiters and hiring managers can tell the difference between a cover letter that someone has put effort into versus one that looks like a standard template. Remember: you are competing with other candidates that may have the same or similar experiences and skills as you, so it’s essential that you craft something impactful. If you get stuck, try working on your elevator pitch to help you shape the tone of your cover letter and nail that sales pitch down to a science.
Prepped has the tools to help you build a great cover letter
The Prepped team is ready to help you get your cover letter just right! We’ve built a library of resources to support you in your job search, and we encourage you to take advantage of our resume and cover letter templates to help you apply the skills you learned here and hopefully score the job you’ve always wanted. Gain access to these resources and more when you sign up for Prepped today.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.