Searching for a job or internship isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, and writing a cover letter can be even less so. Many candidates hurt their own chances of success by bypassing this essential part of the application, seeing it as pointless. A stellar cover letter, however, can oftentimes be the difference between getting an interview, or your resume tossed in the garbage.
Why Writing a Cover Letter is Important
Many candidates don’t see a cover letter as an important part of the application, and every-so-often, they might be right. Think of it like this, though: there are, on average, 250 applicants for a corporate job. If 80 percent do not include a cover letter, and you do, your competition most likely just went from 249 people to 49. 200 people out of the running because they didn’t take the simple step and go the extra mile like you.
A cover letter can even help you overcome shortcomings in your resume or a lack of experience. Hiring managers are going to choose a determined, passionate individual with a strong work ethic for their team over an Ivy League degree with no tenacity every time.
Writing a Cover Letter
A cover letter’s purpose is to highlight your ability, interest and curiosity for the role and help reflect your personality to the hiring manager. A cover letter is an opportunity to highlight stand-out skills not already covered in your resume, use it.
Tailor to Your Audience
If you are using the same generic cover letter for every application, this will be obvious to the hiring manager and give them the sense that you don’t actually care about the job. Each application, and therefore cover letter, should be treated and modified individually, as if the company it is being sent to is the only job that you want.
Starting a cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whomever it may concern” tends to convey a lack of work and research. Find out who you should be addressing within the company. If that information is unavailable to you, leave it out entirely.
Research the company you are trying to work for, as well as the industry as a whole, and add in historical facts throughout the cover letter to highlight how well you know the industry. This shows that you have knowledge in your subject but are eager to learn more, making you perfect for any role.
What to Include and What Not to Include
Do not include sentences that say “My name is…” and “I am applying for the role of…”. These sentences not only waste time, but they also indicate a lack of experience. Get to the point – the hiring manager already knows your name and what position you are applying for.
A cover letter should establish a bond with the reader. The letter needs to be directed to the company and discuss the skills and attributes that best emphasize how suited for the role you are.
Avoid the often-repeated buzzwords that everyone seems to write in their cover letter. Phrases like: “detail-oriented”, “hardworking”, and “works well in a team”. Be creative and original.
Don’t hesitate to follow up your application with a call or email. Initiative is a desired quality in a potential hire, and barely any candidates ever follow up in this way. This will put you back in the forefront of the hiring manager’s thoughts, getting their mind off your competition, and helps make you stand out as the right hire for the job.