When it comes to your job search, you want to put your best foot forward — but with all of today’s competition, how do YOU stand out in the crowd?
One great way to catch a recruiter’s eye is with a well-written cover letter. Simply put, a cover letter is a formal letter that you send alongside your resume. It allows you to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, and provide context for your achievements and qualifications, as well as explain your motivation for wanting to join the company.
In many cases, this may be the first impression that you make on an employer, so it’s imperative that you get it right. Think of your cover letter as your personal 30-second commercial — this is your chance to shine!
“First impressions matter. Experts say we size up new people in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes.” — Elliott Abrams, American politician
The key writing tips you need
When it comes to writing your cover letter, remember that shorter is better. The goal is to catch the recruiter’s eye within the first paragraph; therefore, your first sentence should be short and striking. Be sure to get your key message across right from the beginning.
The following tips will help ensure that your cover letter is both readable and attractive:
- Make it easy to read. Choose a recommended resume font and don’t set the font size below 12 points. Set your margins to 1” or 1 ½” so that your cover letter looks filled out but not overly stuffed with words.
- Ensure that formatting is correct. Look for best practices online when it comes to templates, visuals, and images. A classic look with a header, date, and address is generally preferred. Resume Genius provides over 100 examples of professional cover letters by type and industry.
- Pay attention to detail. Triple-check to ensure that your spelling and grammar are correct. A simple mistake can raise a red flag to a recruiter and discount you from the job altogether. Pro Tip: Consider downloading a free tool such as Grammarly, which will help catch any errors for you.
- Keep it to a single page. Hiring managers do not have the time to read through a multi-page cover letter. The suggested length is 1-3 paragraphs and approximately 300-500 words. Learn how to cut your cover letter down to one page.
- Hit the high points in the body, and quickly. Be sure to address what skills and experience you have that match what the hiring manager is looking for. Be honest and don’t exaggerate, but rather capitalize on your strengths and transferable skills, such as problem-solving and leadership, for example. You may want to add 3-5 bullets, which will allow you to expand on why you feel you are the right fit for the job and what you bring to the table, in a clear and concise way. The bullets should be up to 6 words tops and should not wrap around.
- Write unique cover letters for different employers. Consider tailoring your cover letter to the employer and role that you’re applying for. Show the recruiter that you know something about the company’s goals, and share how you can help achieve them. According to Live Career: “When you customize your cover letter, you show that you care about getting the job.”
- Finish with a common sign-off. It’s appropriate to close your cover letter with a simple salutation such as “Sincerely” or “Kind Regards. There’s no need to get fancy here! You may want to consider leaving space so that you can sign your name in a blue or black pen.
How important is a cover letter in 2021?
There are many contrasting opinions on the matter, but according to ResumeLab:
“83% of recruiters agree that, although not strictly necessary, a well-written cover letter gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you are a great fit for the company you are applying for.”
Not all employers require cover letters, but if your resume isn’t enough to get your foot in the door, a powerful cover letter might just be your ticket to an interview. If a hiring manager isn’t sure by reading your resume why you’re applying for a position or leaving your current role, they may want to learn more. In that case, your cover letter could play a crucial part in the hiring process.
Find your next opportunity today with SURESTAFF!
About the Author
Kim is a seasoned content marketing professional with over twelve years of corporate communications experience. Her sweetspot is with creative writing both short and long-form, and she has a proven track record working with IBM, Jackson Healthcare, and Walt Disney World, among many others. Kim is also a singer and actress and has been performing on stage and screen her entire life and has a great passion for TV and film production. Connect with Kim on LinkedIn.