19 Tips for Writing a Professional Cover Letter

19 Tips for Writing a Professional Cover Letter

This is a terrible cover letter.

You probably say this to yourself each time you sit down to write it, like a bad mantra. Perhaps you've even repeatedly thought, "Is a basic resume really not enough? Do they even read cover letters?"

No, a generic resume really won't cut it. But yes, recruiters do read cover letters. After all, it's one of the best opportunities to tell a potential employer who you are as a professional, and to show them that you're their best bet for the position.

In this post, Resumance shares some simple and practical recommendations to help you create the perfect cover letter, both in form and content.

What you can do for the company

One of the common mistakes job-seekers commit is that they focus on talking about how a company will help them. Sure, it's nice to make compliments from time-to-time but employers are more interested in knowing what a candidate will be able to do for the company in case they get hired.

Telling the same things from your resume

Unlike a resume, the cover letter is a space that gives you more freedom to act and express yourself. Don't miss out on this chance to explain the main points in your resume. Tell an interesting story of why you're the most suitable candidate for the position. Use simple, easily understandable sentences. You can even add a bit of humor.

Let templates guide you

If this is your first time writing a cover letter and you don't know how to get started, we strongly recommend you read and follow well-written templates. It's easy to find good examples on the Internet. There are lots of resume maker tools that even provide them for free or for a small fee.

Show what you can do

Besides explaining your previous job experience and performance, show the recruiter what you can do in the future, for the company. Carefully read the job description and determine what the potential employer needs from a candidate.

Describe your skills

Once you realize that you have the potential to do the work but don't think that your past job experience doesn't fully match the position, consider focusing on your skills. Describe them in detail and how you can apply your skills to benefit the company.

Don't apologize for the lack of skills

Some candidates think that it's not worth taking a shot when they realize their job experience isn't a match to the requirements of a position. Now is the time to change this mindset. Instead of focusing on your shortcomings, focus on your strengths instead. Make sure to convey your enthusiasm and commitment to the position you're applying for.

Don't focus on your educational background

Students and young professionals from previous generations tend to love describing their academic background. Sure, it's an important aspect to getting hired, but HR managers choose candidates based on their experience and performance. Apart from education, don't forget to include internships and volunteer work you've participated in, and how the experience can help once you get hired.

Use numbers

Sometimes, numbers speak louder than words. Take advantage of this by using performance statistics to illustrate your professional influence on the company or organization you've previously worked for. Employers would love to see this in your cover letter.

Tell a story

Explain why you want to work for the company. Perhaps their products and/or services have changed your life. Or maybe you've been passing by their office for many years, dreaming of one day becoming their employee. Don't be afraid to tell stories like this. At the same time, make it short and sweet.

Don't be too formal

Is the phrase, "I'm interested in the job and want to work in your incredible firm" filled with sincerity? Not really. A robot could have said it better. So when writing a cover letter, it's best to be yourself, show friendliness, and write freely and simply.

Write different versions of your cover letter for different vacancies

If you have a template like, "Dear HR manager, I really want to work in your company and hope that I can realize my full potential in such position", now's the perfect time to remove it and make sure it doesn't see the light of day. Instead, write a unique letter for each specific vacancy. Sure enough, potential employers will see your sincerity and would respond to your application.

Try out different formats

Your cover letter shouldn't be bland and boring. There are many different ways to give life to it. Planning to work in a startup company? Go ahead and be creative. Play around with different formats, make data more visually appealing, tell a story in pictures, or take it up a notch by shooting a video. Your chances of getting called in for an interview will surely skyrocket.

Know your limits

Your aim is to stand out, but it's always good to know when to stop. If you think you've created an "extraordinary" cover letter, get a friend or family member to read it first before handing it out to a recruiter. If they approve, then it's safe to send your cover letter.

Include a title

Add a catchy title to your cover letter. For example, if you're applying for the position of a sales manager, you can write down something like "3 reasons why I'm the perfect candidate for the sales manager position".

Stay true to yourself

It's hard to say how many applicants use the words "sociable", "stress-resistant", "works well in a team", etc. Employers read and hear them like a broken record - there's nothing new and striking about them. If you really want to set yourself aside from the rest, avoid using too much technical terms. Instead, make it more personal. Write straight from the heart and be honest. While it's good to get some guidance from templates, it feels more right to add a bit of personality to your cover letter.

Explore the company

The cover letter is where you can show that you fully understand a company's corporate values and prove that they're not alien to you. When preparing your letter, make sure to always keep in mind the person who will read it.

Write a letter to yourself

It's not always easy to write. If you don't feel confident, try writing a letter to yourself from a friend, mentor, or former employer's perspective.

Address the recruiter by their name

Try to know in advance the full name of the person who will receive your cover letter. You can usually find them in the job description or on the company website itself. As much as possible, avoid starting your letter with a "Greetings, Mr. / Ms. HR manager!". If you don't know their name, you can limit it to just saying, "Greetings!" or "Good day!"

Proofread and edit

Going through your cover letter just once isn't enough. Make sure to check it for errors with the help of online grammar and spell check tools. And don't send it to the recruiter right away (if there's no deadline). Wait for at least 12 hours and give yourself some time to read it over again. Who knows, you may just spot a mistake you've previously overlooked.

When it comes to preparing a cover letter, Resumance has one important advice: Be different. After all, the most memorable and attention-grabbing cover letters are almost always made by those who don't play by the rules. Just follow your heart and be yourself!

Posted by Abigail Jackson

Abigail Jackson is the Editor-in-Chief at Resumance. After earning her degree in Psychology and working for several years as a career adviser, she is now working as an independent career consultant and a seasoned resume writer. You can get in touch with Abigail on Twitter @theresumance.