Resumes & Cover Letters

3 steps to writing a cover letter that will get you hired

Written by Eric Titner

The challenge of getting a new job is greater today than ever before, due to a number of factors—including the recent events disrupting the global economy and impacting businesses across all industries and sectors worldwide, as well as a huge resultant surge in people searching for new employment opportunities.

These are indeed challenging times, which means that it’s absolutely mission-critical for you to be at your unequivocal best if you want to grab and hold the attention of recruiters, hiring managers, and HR personnel to lock down a new job.

Chief among your objectives when ramping up an effective job search is to craft the foundational template for a pitch-perfect cover letter. (Of course, your letters should be personalized for each job you apply for—more on that later.) In fact, the right cover letter may just turn out to be the single most important weapon in your job search arsenal.

Why? Simply put, it’s all about the power of first impressions. For most of us on the job hunt trail, our cover letter is the first opportunity to show who we are to the individuals who stand as the gatekeepers between us and the next position on our career journeys. First impressions can be incredibly potent—they can go a long way toward shaping how people define you and can be quite difficult to overcome and alter once they’re set.

Clearly, it’s in your best interest to take your cover letters seriously. Consider the following strategies for writing letters that will help you grab the attention of hiring personnel and get you noticed—and hopefully hired.

1. Always personalize

Besides having sentences full of misspellings and grammatical errors, there’s nothing worse than pumping out “one size fits all” boilerplate letters that simply swap out the company name and date and leave the main body as a drab, impersonal, and often ineffective effort. Any hiring manager worth their title can spot these letters a mile away, and they’re often red flags when it comes to evaluating candidates—for good reason. If you’re going to show such a lackluster effort when the stakes are this high and fail to make a compelling case why you’re interested in their specific company and why you’d be a good fit for their team, then what would make them think that you’d be a real asset if hired? Smart candidates personalize each and every letter they send out and make it clear that they’ve done their homework and have a genuine interest in the companies they’re applying to.

2. Tell a story

Recruiters and HR personnel who are in the midst of hiring for a position (or many positions) have very limited time and attention to give to each candidate and cover letter—especially after having sifted through a huge stack of them. That said, letters that are simply dull reiterations of a candidate’s qualifications may fail to register or have a meaningful impact on their audience. Conversely, letters that poignantly (and succinctly!) tell the story of who you are, both as a candidate and as a person, can really help you rise above the competition and stand out on hiring radars—a crucial element of the job search formula. Don’t forget, hiring personnel aren’t just hiring a set of qualifications, they’re hiring people. Make sure you represent exactly the kind of person and employee you will be within their organization.

3. Demonstrate value

Sure, you want your eagerness and passion to come across when crafting a cover letter, and you want readers to get the impression that getting the job is important to you. But if your cover letter stops there, then chances are it isn’t going to open many doors for you. The real mission of a truly effective cover letter should be the opposite—to demonstrate what you can do for the company, not what they can do for you. After all, there’s a reason they’re reading your letter in the first place—they have a specific need that they’re looking to take care of in order to benefit their organization. If you can show in your letter how you can not only meet that need but also demonstrate added value to help them achieve new levels of success, then you’ll really be setting yourself up to make a great first impression.

If you’re on the job hunt and eager to find your next great opportunity, use the strategies and advice presented here to help your cover letters make a great first impression and have a lasting positive impact. Good luck!

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.