The first time I ever learned about the concept of a cover letter, I distinctly remember how it was explained to me: “It’s like your resume, but longer.” The reason that moment sticks out to me so much? It’s completely wrong!
Yes, your cover letter should include some of the key skills, traits and experience highlighted in your resume. But copying and pasting from there into your cover letter will most definitely turn recruiters off. Odds are they’ve already read your resume — why would you make them waste their time reading the same thing over again?
Cover letters are your opportunity to not only show that you have the background and knowledge needed to do the job well, but that you’re also passionate, charismatic and well-informed. For many people, though, it’s a daunting task. With so much information to convey, where do you get started?
We’ve rounded up some of our top tips on cover letters to lay it out for you in one easy-to-follow guide. Our infographic shares a structure for you to follow, the content you need to share and some helpful tips on style and formatting.
Take a look below, and start drafting the cover letter that will score you your dream job — happy writing!
1. Contact Info: Don’t make recruiters dig through your cover letter to find your name and contact info — include it up top so they can easily reach out.
2. Greeting: Forget “To Whom It May Concern”. If you can find it, address the recruiter/hiring manager by name.
3. Intro Paragraph:
- Relevant anecdotes, quotes, fun facts, etc. are all good ways to make your opening line stand out.
- Make it clear that you know who the company is, what they do and what they care about.
- Mention a few roles, projects, experiences, traits or passions that make you the ideal candidate.
- If someone at the company has referred you, this is the place to name drop them.
4. Body Paragraph(s):
- Incorporate keywords directly from the job description.
- Whenever possible, include concrete metrics that illustrate the results you’ve achieved.
5. Closing Paragraph:
Summarize, don’t plagiarize. Reaffirm your interest, passion and qualifications from earlier in the letter, but don’t make it sound redundant.
- Cover letters should be clean and easy to read — save the intricate designs and crazy fonts for party invitations.
- Like a resume, keep the cover letter to one page. If necessary, hyperlink your portfolio, website or samples of your work.
- Saving your cover letter as a PDF file will ensure the formatting won’t change.
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Kathleen Houlihan is a leader in workforce innovation and she is the Founder of an agency that reimagines talent acquisition and optimizes the system for candidates and employers. Her company, Dream2Career, provides human-centric ROI solutions that filter-in candidates who exceed expectations in the workplace.