Writing a cover letter is no easy task. If a hiring manager sees two equally great resumes, it would be the cover letter that ultimately determines who gets the job and who has to continue the arduous application process. We're here to help you create the an amazing profile with our 13 best practices for writing a cover letter.
in this guide we'll teach you:
- Cover letter writing practices for content
- Best practices for formatting and addressing your letter
- How to find keywords and why integrate them in your cover letter
Before we dive into it, have one last look at your resume and make sure it's flawless.
Head over to our resume builder for some expert tips on how to best present your experience and get the job.
13 Best Practices for Writing a Cover Letter
A good cover letter is a compilation of great content and skillful formatting. You have to pay attention to the small details and emphasize your relatable strengths.
1. Address your cover letter appropriately
The first thing that the hire manager sees on your cover letter is how you address them, so make sure you do it correctly.
Forget the impersonal "to whom it may concern" and get specific. If possible, use the hiring manager's name. If you can't find it on the job ad or the company website, try social media. LinkedIn is a great source of information.
If you can't find the name anywhere, use "Dear Hiring Manager." For more tips, check out 7 Cover Letter Opening Line Mistakes to Avoid (Examples).
2. Have a clear message
Your cover letter has to be focused. The hiring manager has no time to read neither an essay version of your resume, nor irrelevant information.
Stick to the main questions:
- What position you're applying to
- How your experience is relevant
- What you want to accomplish in that role
- How you'll be of use to the company
3. Show relatable experiences and interests
One good practice for writing a cover letter is to stick to relevant information. While you may have the coolest hobbies and interests, like rock climbing or tango dancing, not all are relevant to the job you're looking to get.
Choose the hobbies that most closely relate to the position and talk about them. For example, if you're applying to be a web designer for a yoga company, talk about your love for yoga.
If you're applying to a bank that organizes 10K charity runs annually, talk about your passion for running. Make every piece of information on your cover letter relatable to the job.
4. Demonstrate motivation
Writing a cover letter (especially when the application doesn't require it) shows motivation. You should take it a step further and discuss why you're so eager to get the position.
Would this position help you make a difference in the world? Has it been your lifelong dream, or do you just feel very passionately about the daily tasks? Let the hiring manager know all that in the cover letter.
5. Do your research on the company
What do you do when you want to convince someone to do something for you? You find out as much information about them as you can and then use it in your favor. The same applies to job hunting.
Find out everything you possibly can about the company, the team and the work. Then address it in your cover letter.
Use the company name and whatever data you can quote. This will show the hiring manager that you've done your homework which would give you an edge.
6. Use keywords from the cover letter
The job description is a powerful weapon you can use in your cover letter. How? Find out what the key responsibilities of the position are and explain how you're qualified and motivated to perform them.
For example, if the ad says:
Responsibilities of the Sales Assistant:
Provide great customer service by travel to retail stores throughout Boston to promote client services and compile a list of leads.
Approach consumers during in-store retail campaigns and educate them about our product, making recommendations based on their needs.
Run sales presentations during in-store sales campaigns with the goal of increasing brand awareness.
Report to the management team monthly.
The keywords here are highlighted in bold. Those are the main tasks that the ideal candidate would be able to execute.
Knowing that, a passage of a good cover letter would read:
cover letter example:
My experience with customer service over the past 3 years has showed me how to educate consumers on products and services, making sure that I cater to their needs. I enjoy collaborating and working in a team, and am always able to run a sales presentation at any given moment.
Promoting brand awareness and generating new leads are tasks that I perform with ease and motivation, and I'd be happy to do this for (Company Name).
Pinpoint the keywords on the ad and use them. This way you will reassure the hiring manager that you are the right candidate for the job.
7. Tailor each cover letter
Do you ever wear a suit that doesn't fit well to a job interview? No, you tailor it. This is how you have to approach each cover letter you send out.
While it's easy to send out a generic cover letter to 20 companies, the chances of you getting a job this way are slim.
Be specific and target your efforts to the company in question. For more tips, read How and Why to Tailor a Cover Letter.
8. Remove anything irrelevant
Recruiters are busy. Don't waste their time by adding irrelevant information or rambling about past experiences that have nothing to do with the position you're applying to. Keep your content short and clear.
9. Mention any personal references
Did someone from the company tell you about the position? Do you have a connection you can mention in the cover letter? If yes, do it.
This should be done in passing and delicately. You can say:
"(Name of Contact) who referred me to apply to the position explained that the job entails..."
A delicate mention of a connection can work in your favor.
10. Don't repeat your resume
Remember that the resume presents the facts of your career. The cover letter shows your motivation for applying.
While the cover letter may mention details from your resume, it should be completely different from your resume.
11. Be confident about your strengths and don't talk about weaknesses
The cover letter is supposed to show you in the best light possible, just like your resume. This is not the time to be shy or talk about your weaknesses.
Focus on what you're good at. The recruiter might ask about your weaknesses during the interview anyway, but don't jump the gun on that one.
12. Always proofread
We can't stress this tip enough. Always proofread your work. You might have the best content the hiring manager has ever seen, but if it's full of typos and grammatical errors, you won't get the job.
13. Format properly
Formatting is very important when it comes to writing a cover letter. You only get one page to work with, so you have to make the best out of it.
Stick to a neat font at a size between 9 - 11. Some of the best fonts for a cover letter are Times New Roman, Verdana, Calibri, Arial, and Tahoma.
The best practices for writing a cover letter are simple and straightforward. Keep your content strong and to the point. Proofread and format well. Do your research and don't repeat your resume in a story format.
Try to incorporate as many of these 13 tips as you can and confidently send out your applications.