We know how it goes. You can format and revise your resume all day long, but when it comes to writing an effective cover letter, you sit there looking at a blank Word document and wondering where to start.
When you break down the anatomy of a great cover letter, it’s really just an extension of your resume that gets specific about why you’re interested in the position and what makes you qualified to fill it.
The team at ResumeSpice, a resume writing and career coaching service developed by recruiters, has put together a list of five things to keep in mind when putting together a great cover letter.
1. Appropriate length, formatting, and fonts
Just like your resume, you don’t want to over stylize your cover letter or go crazy with the fonts. Pick a professional font that’s easy-to-read and keep everything left-aligned.
Your cover letter is not a manifesto. It’s a brief introduction that can give a better sense of who you are. We recommend that it’s no longer than a page – stick to 3-4 paragraphs.
2. An appropriate addressee
A cover letter is meant to draw the hiring manager or recruiter in, so beginning your letter with “To Whom It May Concern,” puts distance between you and the reader.
You can ask your recruiter for the hiring manager’s name – or if you don’t have a recruiter, do a little research on LinkedIn. And if that doesn’t work, call into the company and ask who is hiring for that role. But don’t give your name – most hiring managers frown upon candidates calling in, so make sure your call stays under the radar.
You applied to the position for a reason. Look at the job description and pick out what excited you about it. If you felt like you were a perfect match, say it! You might write something like, “As a communications professional with over eight years of experience in PR, the PR Advisor role felt like it was written just for me.”
4. A Narrative
This is the meat of your cover letter. This is where you’ll write about why you’re interested in the position, what makes you a great fit, and what you can specifically bring to the table. For this piece, it’s helpful to again look back at the job description and pick 2-3 items that you have strong experience in.
If you’re applying for a communications job, part of your narrative may read like this: “My ability to communicate with every stakeholder, as well as my extensive experience with PR crisis management make me a strong candidate for the Communications Director role.”
5. Focuses on the employee’s needs
We can’t stress this enough – your cover letter is not really about you. Sure, it’s about your skills, accomplishments, and experience that make you a great fit, but it’s really about how all of that will benefit the employer. To that end, stay away from anything that mentions your own personal gain should you work there. For example, you’ll want to nix anything in your cover letter that sounds like: “I’ve always wanted to work in a management role, so this opportunity is a perfect way to achieve my goals.”
Putting together a strong cover letter can be a difficult task if you’ve never written one before. Make sure you keep your cover letter relevant to the job and the employer, but don’t be afraid to be yourself and show your excitement about the company or the position. Happy writing!
ResumeSpice is an online career services company, offering a comprehensive menu of career services to help job seekers land the job of their dreams. From resume writing to cover letter, interviewing, LinkedIn, and career coaching services, job seekers are able to select from a suite of options that meet their needs. ResumeSpice was developed by recruiters based on first-hand knowledge of what recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals are really looking for in a successful candidate. For more information, visit www.resumespice.com.