A Cover Letter Should Be Your Greatest Tool

The Cover Letter.

A dreaded requirement. Extra work. Time consumed. An obstacle on your way to your dream job.

Cover letters are becoming a more and more common ask by hiring managers and while many job seekers despise the additional document, it can be your best asset in the job hunt. In fact, it is the icing on your resume cake.

Resumes are required to be tight and concise. Common practice suggests that resumes are one-page, strictly organized with plenty of white space. Fonts should be standard. Bullets should be standard. Essentially, your resume doesn’t give you the opportunity to show your personality and skills beyond a simple, shorten write-up.

The cover letter allows you to show employers that you read the job description, comprehended the requirements and expectations, and you are able to synthesize your skills and accomplishments described in your resume to highlight why you’re a good candidate. The cover letter is your chance to spell out exactly why you should get this job. Circling back to the icing-cake analogy, even if your cake is dry (light on past experience or you were fired from your last job, etc.), the cover letter is your chance to show that you are more than just a few bullet points and dates on your resume, but you have the drive, interest and commitment to excel in the job position and you’ve acquired important and pertinent skills from your past jobs/internships that will be a great asset to the position.

A cover letter doesn’t need to be lengthy; in actuality, it should be personalized and clearly summarize your skills and how they are an asset in the job you are applying for. The point of a cover letter is to convince the reader to eagerly turn to your resume to learn even more about you whilst noting you a great candidate for the job.

Here are a few tips to create a fantastic cover letter:

  • Research, research, research. Explore the company’s site, LinkedIn account, Glassdoor, etc. to learn as much as you can about the company’s mission and culture. You should weave this information into your cover letter and connect it to your skills or past experience.
  • Your name and contact information should be the header of cover letter. Then, write the salutation correctly.If you know the name of the hiring manager, or if you can find out, all the better. It shows you went the extra mile when other candidates may not make the effort. Start with “Dear Mr./Ms. Doe,” and move on. If you don’t know, or cannot find out, stick with “Dear Sir or Madam.”
  • Don’t repeat your resume. Use the cover letter as an opportunity to highlight your personality, curiosity and interest in the field.
  • Experts recommend avoiding the “My name is____ and I’m applying for ___ position.” It’s repetitive and a waste of the hiring manager’s time. Start off strong with why this job is exciting to you and why you are a great candidate.On that note, avoid saying “best candidate for the job,” you never know who else applied or what the hiring manager has already seen.
  • Keep it short, simple and to the point. It shouldn’t be more than three paragraphs, half a page at the most. The first paragraph should highlight your interest in the job, perhaps how you heard about it. Be sure to list the company name in the paragraph and maybe include a tidbit to show you did your research and didn’t blindly apply. Second paragraph should tie your past work experience with the job responsibilities/duties to show your expertise. Last paragraph can highlight your skills and professional traits (For example, works well with deadlines/under pressure, etc).
  • Think of campaigns, clients, and work that you’ve done that would be interesting to the employer and be sure to highlight – you can use bullets, especially when using data-driven points such as “social media engagement increased 50%.”
  • Send it as a PDF! It looks cleaner and doesn’t present the same formatting issues that can come up if you/the company is using an older version of Word.

As you’re writing your resume, avoid trying to be funny or overly flattering.Professionalism and maturity are the way to go in written form, you can charm them in your interview. Be sure to customize each letter for each job you apply to! Each cover letter should be so personalized to the position and the company that it couldn’t possibly be recycled word for word.

Got any cover letter, resume, or interview tips? Tweet us @litdarling!

Kelly Morrison Menk

Kelly Morrison Menk

When not writing, Kelly works as a communications associate at a nonprofit in Washington, DC. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Mary Washington and Master's in Communication from George Mason University. She firmly believes that running daily allows her to continue her serious Coca-Cola addiction without repercussions (no, Pepsi is not the same). When she's not working or fighting horrible DC traffic, you can find her sleeping, eating or attempting to train her two pups.
Kelly Morrison Menk
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