As a recent graduate or job seeker, you’ve likely asked this question before:
How can I use my cover letter to stand out?
Whether you’re preparing to write your first cover letter or you want to polish your twentieth, these cover letter tips will help you do just that.
We’ll share ten cover letter tips for recent graduates and job seekers, followed by five common mistakes to avoid. These cover letter tips will help you show off your skill set, while also demonstrating your fit with a company.
Before we dive in, let’s briefly review some cover letter basics.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document that job applicants submit along with their resume. A great cover letter tells a hiring manager, “Hey, I really want this job, and I’m super qualified.” In a more professional way, of course.
A cover letter along with an error-free resume communicates why you’re the best candidate for the job. Your cover letter provides an opportunity to introduce yourself to a prospective employer and share your interest in a specific company and position.
After the employer reads your cover letter, you want them to review your resume, visit your LinkedIn profile, check out your online portfolio, or better yet: do all three. Most importantly, you want to pique their interest so they invite you to interview with the company.
10 COVER LETTER TIPS
- Prove how you will add value.
When a company hires a new employee, they’re investing in the company’s future. In your cover letter, you need to prove how you can add value (if hired). For example, let’s assume the company wants to hire a marketing expert. If you coordinated a marketing campaign and increased social media engagement by 18%, be sure to include this data in your cover letter. You need to prove how you will add value to the company if you’re selected for the position.
- Customize your cover letter.
Generic letters won’t get you far. Phrases like “Dear employer” or “I would love to work for your company” produce altogether weak cover letters. Every cover letter should be tailored to the position and company. And never submit the same exact cover letter to multiple positions! A little extra effort can quickly distinguish you as a top-tier applicant.
- Follow the instructions.
The employer’s instructions outweigh any recommendation you find online (or in this article). That said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. If an employer requests any information you feel uncomfortable sharing, do not include that information in your application.
- Address the correct person.
Always double-check that your cover letter is addressed to the correct person and company. It’s a terrible feeling when you realize you addressed your letter to the wrong company—and you already hit the “Send” button! In addition, make sure you spell the contact person’s name correctly. These details matter.
- Grab the reader’s attention.
The first sentence of your cover letter needs to engage the reader (just like a good book). Avoid robotic introductions like, “I am writing to apply for your full-time position.” Or, “Please accept this cover letter in application to your recently advertised role.” This is your opportunity to make a solid first impression: write something unique, yet professional.
- Name drop.
If you know someone who is connected to the company, don’t be afraid to name drop. Name dropping is when you reference a friend, family member, or acquaintance who has a relationship with the hiring manager or company. You could write: “After speaking with your current COO, Carly Douglas, at a local networking event, I am incredibly excited to apply for your Account Manager position.”
- Be specific.
Avoid fluffy claims like, “I conducted marketing research”. What kind of research? What were you researching? What tools did you use? Instead write, “I used SPSS to analyze survey data.” Generic claims and buzzwords do not add value to your cover letter. Explain what you did and why it matters to the hiring manager and the company.
- Highlight key ideas (as outlined in the job description).
It’s important to determine the keywords in the job description. Here’s a trick: use the “Find” function. The “Find” function is a keyboard function where you press and hold Control+F (Windows), or Command+F (Mac). This will cause a search box to appear on your screen. Type in likely keywords such as “communication” or other skills from the job description. Your computer will find every appearance of this word.
- Don’t repeat your resume.
When you write a cover letter, you’re not turning your resume bullet points into complete sentences and paragraphs. Instead, choose three of the most relevant accomplishments and tell a story. Focus on the most relevant skills and write a succinct cover letter.
This is so important. Even a small typo can send your application directly to the trash. Typos indicate a lack of attention to detail, not to mention poor spelling and grammar. Before you submit your cover letter, confirm that there are no errors. Read your cover letter out loud and have someone else check it over.
In addition to following those ten cover letter tips, here are five common cover letter pitfalls to avoid.
5 COVER LETTER MISTAKES TO AVOID
Luckily, typos are avoidable! Before you submit your cover letter, confirm it’s error-free.
- Self-centered content.
Yes, you’re writing about yourself. But a cover letter needs to explain why you are qualified and passionate about the job opportunity.
- Regurgitated resume.
Don’t waste even an inch of your cover letter repeating the content of your resume. Instead, focus on creating documents that complement each other.
Delete unnecessary words. Refrain from illustrating the same skill with different examples. Instead, choose one story and elaborate.
- Irrelevant information.
I get it! You’ve had a lot of awesome experiences. But if you want to write an outstanding cover letter, you need to narrow it down to the most relevant accomplishments.
You can use these cover letter tips and tricks to help you write an outstanding cover letter. After you draft your letter, come back to this article and double-check that you followed each cover letter tip and avoided each common mistake.
It’s time to prove how you can add value to a company.
You can write a cover letter that not only shows off your expertise, but clearly demonstrates how you’re a perfect fit for the position and company.
You’ve got this.