Career Resources

How to Write a Great Cover Letter

A cover letter is a marvellous tool in your job search because you can use it to communicate information for which there is no place on the resume—and it gives you the opportunity to show, in even more detail, how great a fit you are.

Tips & Guidelines

1. Hit their pain points.

Most employers will touch on their greatest needs within the job posting. Find the employer’s pain points—and what’s most important to them—and give examples of how you’ve successfully addressed similar issues in the past. Nothing speaks louder than verifiable experience.

2. Don’t generalize.

Focus, not generalization is critical. Say, for example, the VP of Sales for a Fortune 500 company gets a hold of your resume. They are reading your opening statement that starts with: “Sales executive with 15 years of experience building teams and consensus, expanding territories and so on…” Ultimately this tells the reader very little.

3. Get a name.

Use the company’s website or directory to get the name of the Hiring Manager. Try to not address it to “Dear Sir or Madam” or other generic parties. Getting a specific name will ensure your documents get to the right person.

4. Start strong.

Begin the first paragraph with a value-packed statement saying what you offer and how it ties into the company vacancy. Always emphasize the job title so it can catch the eye of a Hiring Manager, especially if they are skimming the documents quickly. Don’t state the obvious such as your name (you should have a contact information header that mimics your resume) or phrases such as, “I am writing to apply for…” It is a letter, so it is understood you are writing. Save space for more valuable text.

5. Close with a call-to-action.

For the closing paragraph, don’t simply state you hope to hear from them soon. Instead, state that you’d appreciate the opportunity for an interview to explain how your skills match their needs.

6. Don’t write an opening statement over six lines.

If you have Googled executive resume writers and seen their samples, you might notice professional resumes are becoming more and more visually impactful and much less dense in text. This is because big blocks of text in your resume will seldom get read. You must say what you wish to say directly, simply and briefly. Focus on the value you bring to the table.

7. Get specific.

Identify a specific goal the company wants to achieve and figure out how your unique experiences, skills, and expertise can help achieve that goal. Ask yourself, “How exactly can my unique qualifications help me solve this company’s problem?”

A great way to learn about some of the challenges and goals of a company is to set up an informational interview with someone who works there. Chat them up, ask them what they need, and figure out why they need it.

8. Think not what the company can do for you.

A common cover letter mistake? Talking about how great the position would be for you and your resume. Frankly, hiring managers are aware of that—what they really want to know is what you’re going to bring to the position and company.

9. Tell a story.

What brings you to this company? Did you use to sing along to all of its commercials as a kid? Did the product make some incredible difference in your life? Do you sometimes pull into the parking lot and daydream about what it would feel like to work there? Stories bring your background and experiences to life, so feel free to tell them. (Just, you know, keep them short and to the point.)

Sources: The Muse, Careerealism