Job hunting can be tough—especially when it comes to your cover letter. Writing a unique, eye-catching cover letter for a job application is one of the toughest parts of the entire process.
To help you land your dream job, we’ve created this quick guide to writing a stand-out cover letter. Let’s dive in.
What is a cover letter?
Before you can write an outstanding cover letter for a job application, you’ve got to understand what it is.
Your resume lays down the facts about your professional history. Your cover letter puts all of that information in context. A good cover letter will contain:
- An explanation for why you are applying for a role
- A description of how your past work history makes you an outstanding candidate
- A hint of your soft skills and ability to adapt to a new work culture
Cover letter contents vary depending on your industry, work history, and the open job. There is no clear formula for writing one, though there are certain tips you can follow. Because there is no “right” way to craft a cover letter, templates will not be much help. While you can use a template to format your cover letter, you’ll want to write the bulk of it yourself.
The more unique and creative your cover letter is, the more likely a recruiter will contact you for an interview.
Why is having a good cover letter important?
Cover letters are optional for some applications. In the current tight job market, employers try to make it easier for people to apply for their positions. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write one.
Over half of senior managers say that cover letters are worthwhile. If other applicants don’t include a cover letter for a job and you do, you have already set yourself apart from the pack. If your cover letter is well-written, your initial impression gets more of a boost. Even if a cover letter isn’t requested, it’s a good move to include one anyway. Be sure to go the extra mile.
For jobs that do require cover letters, a well-written cover letter can easily prove your professionalism to recruiters.
Ten tips for writing a stand-out cover letter for a job
Cover letters are important, but how do you write one that recruiters and hiring managers won’t stop talking about? Here are ten top tips for crafting a cover letter for a job:
- Address your recruiter or hiring manager by name. Using your recipient’s name quickly makes your cover letter stand out. Addressing your recipient by name shows them that you’re willing to put that extra work in.
- Link your history to the job description. Carefully review the job description before you write your cover letter. Pick out a few leading job requirements, and connect your work history examples to those requirements.
- Show, don’t tell. Don’t just tell your audience about your achievements. Show them. Give examples, and try to include results where you can. Add in numbers where you can, too. Quantified results will stand out.
- Create a story. In your cover letter, demonstrate how your past work history has raised you to your present level. Then, explain how you will be able to succeed at the specific role you’re applying for. Think of it as a story with a strong narrative arc.
- Use an appropriate, approachable tone. Formal cover letters can seem off-putting in this day and age. Write in a casual yet professional tone. If your industry skews conservative or otherwise, keep that in mind.
- Insert your personality. Hiring teams want to know if you’ll be a flexible co-worker. Try to make your cover letter reflect your personality—especially if you’re naturally energetic, positive, or kind.
- Be honest. Don’t stretch the truth in your cover letter. In fact, this is the place to address any potential issues, like an employment gap or botched project. Honesty can be impressive, showing hiring managers how you would resolve a mistake or problem in your new role.
- Leave out what you can. Mainly, you don’t want to overwhelm your readers with information. They can ask follow-up questions during the interview. Leave out any history that isn’t necessary or relevant.
- End with a call of action. Don’t tell the letter recipient that you’d like for him or her to reach out immediately. That’s overstepping boundaries. But you should feel free to let them know that you’re excited to talk with them soon.
- Coordinate your letter with your resume. Finally, you can coordinate your cover letter with your resume. Ensure both documents use similar language. You can even ensure the design matches for that extra touch.
Overview: what your cover letter is really about
At the end of the day, the best way to write a good cover letter for a job is to be yourself and show how much you want the job. Ultimately, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for enthusiastic team members who are willing to work hard for good results.