You’ve narrowed in on the perfect job and you’ve got your resume down.
There’s one more step before you send out that application: the cover letter.
The cover letter is ESSENTIAL in the job application process. It complements your resume by giving the hiring manager a taste of your personality and enthusiasm for the position.
If you’re wondering whether you’re doing it right, stop worrying. We’ve got you covered!
In this article, we’ll give you all the cover letter tips you’ll ever need!
We’ve divided our cover letter tips into three main parts, in order of importance:
- Essential Tips - These tips are fundamental to writing a killer cover letter.
- Important Tips - These cover letter tips are also important, but not as essential.
- Nice-to-have Tips - Not super important, but these tips can still be a nice addition to your cover letter.
9 Essential Cover Letter Tips
Tip #1 - Get the basics right
Before we get into any of the other tips, we want to make sure you know what a great cover letter looks like.
In a nutshell, a cover letter consists of six main parts:
- A header, which contains your contact information
- A greeting for the hiring manager
- The opening paragraph, where you open with an attention grabber and list your top achievements
- The second paragraph, where you explain why you’re the perfect candidate for the job
- The third paragraph, where you explain why you’re compatible with the company, its work culture, and its goals
- The closing remarks
Tip #2 - Tailor your cover letter to the position
You might be tempted to write one awesome cover letter and use it for every position you apply to.
After all, if it’s so good, it should work everywhere, right?
The thing is, the whole point of a cover letter is to show your achievements and enthusiasm about the particular company and position you are applying to.
Different positions have different requirements and responsibilities. You can convince a recruiter to hire you if you make a case for why you’re great for that particular position, not why you’re great in general.
This is why a one-letter-fits-all approach does not work.
To personalize your cover letter to the exact position you are applying for, you should:
- Identify the position’s key responsibilities and get a sense of what kind of person they are looking for.
- Write a cover letter that demonstrates how you can handle those responsibilities and how you’re the right person for the job.
Both candidates are applying for the position of brand development manager in company XYZ.
I am responsible and creative. I have also done well in all my previous positions. I enjoy the work culture in your company and I believe I would be a great fit here.
A brand development management position in XYZ is key to successfully launching XYZ’s brands into e-commerce. In my previous positions, I have led 14 projects and have developed four separate brand launch plans, all of which have raised awareness of the brands within 6 months of the launch plan application.
Rose obviously sends the same cover letter to all job applications because there is nothing position-specific about the way she describes her skills.
Candance, on the other hand, has identified the position’s requirements and key roles and demonstrates how she’s a great fit for it.
Now, which one would you hire based on what you read?
Tip #3 - Use your professional email
This might sound obvious, but it’s something important that might easily slip your attention.
If you use that firstname.lastname@example.org email you made in the fourth grade in your cover letter, the hiring manager immediately X-s you out.
No silly puns and no pop culture references: use a professional email that has your first name and last name.
Tip #4 - Don’t repeat your resume
The hiring manager already has your resume. If you simply repeat the information you’ve provided there, what’s the point in writing a cover letter at all?
So what exactly can you say besides what they already know?
Think of the cover letter as the “story” behind your resume. Write about what makes you passionate to do what you do and why you’re a good fit for the position.
Let’s say that in your resume you mention that you worked as a tech assistant and highlighted your key responsibilities.
In your cover letter, you want to highlight how working as a tech assistant prepared you for the position you are applying for and why you’re passionate about joining the team.
This way, the hiring manager can also see part of your personality and motivation.
Tip #5 - Make it easy to read
You might be tempted to use long, convoluted sentences and SAT words to show how you’re a professional, sophisticated person.
You don’t want the hiring manager to spend five minutes on one sentence wondering just what the heck you are trying to say.
Keep your language simple and your sentences short and straightforward.
Tip #6 - Keep it short
This one’s pretty simple: don’t drag out your cover letter. One page is more than enough.
The golden rule is to keep it between 250-400 words long in 3-6 paragraphs.
You don’t want to risk the hiring manager getting tired and stopping halfway through reading it.
Tip #7 - Follow submission instructions
The company usually specifies the format you should use when submitting your application.
Look out for specifications about:
- File format (Word, PDF)
- Font & margins
- Content specifics, like which sections or contact information to include
Follow those instructions to a T or the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) might end up not reading your file at all.
If there is nothing specific in the job posting, your best bet is to submit your cover letter in PDF format. Use the same font and design as your resume to enhance your personal brand.
You can pick one of our custom Novorésumé cover letter templates and start writing.
Once you’re done creating your resume, it automatically downloads as a PDF.
Tip #8 - Proofread your cover letter
Once you’re done writing, make sure your cover letter doesn’t have any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. They’re absolute turn-offs for recruiters.
Use a spelling checker or the online writing app Grammarly to make sure your letter is flawless.
Tip #9 - Match your cover letter with your resume
Want your application to stand out from the rest?
Match your cover letter style & formatting to your resume.
CIt will make you more memorable as a candidate and show that you care to put in the extra effort by presenting a unified application package.
And you know what's the best part? Creating a matching resume and cover letter doesn’t have to be hard!
At Novorésumé, each of our resume templates comes with a matching cover letter design, so all you have to do is pick a style you like, and half the work is already done for you.
9 Important Cover Letter Tips
Tip #1 - Address the letter to the hiring manager
The days when you used “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” to address your cover letter are long gone.
The best practice is to address your cover letter directly to the hiring manager, as “Dear Mr. Doe”.
That’s usually the head of the department you are applying for or the HR manager.
How can you find his or her name??
- Check the job posting for any contact details.
- Check the company’s LinkedIn and website for the job title.
- Ask any contacts you might know inside the company.
If you still don’t have any clue who to address your cover letter to, here’s what you can use:
- Dear [Department] Team,
- Dear [Department] Hiring Manager,
- Dear Hiring Manager
Tip #2 - Open up with your achievements
The first impression you make is vital because you only get one chance, and it can make or break your application.
The opening paragraph of your cover letter serves as the first impression to the hiring manager. He or she has countless cover letters to read so yours should pop out from the start.
Thus, you must start outlining why you’re a great candidate for the position in the introduction.
Let’s demonstrate how to do it correctly by looking at the two examples below.
What’s the difference between these two cover letter introductions:
“My name is Justin Brown and I would like to contribute towards ABC’s goal to create an outstanding visual experience for end customers throughout the world. Previously, I’ve worked for XYZ, a renowned graphic design company, for 5 years, where I helped create high-quality visual designs from concept to specs to final product. I believe my updated industry experience, along with my ability to adjust between the bigger picture and concrete problems, as well as my attention to detail, makes me the right candidate for the position.”
“Hi, my name is Josh and I really want to work for your company. I heard about the job opening from LinkedIn and decided to apply. I used to work as a graphic designer for XYZ for 5 years, and this is the perfect opportunity for me.”
If there’s one obvious thing, it is that the second one is a WINNING introduction.
Why? Well, unlike Josh, Justin’s introduction:
- Opens with an attention-grabbing sentence, highlighting how Justin can contribute directly towards the company’s goals.
- Outlines his responsibilities and achievements in his previous position.
- Describes what makes him the perfect candidate.
Meanwhile, Josh’s introduction doesn’t say much about him as a candidate except that he used to be employed for five years.
Granted, Josh could be better qualified than Justin, but you could never tell from his cover letter. The hiring manager probably stopped reading and added Josh to the “Rejected” pile.
That’s why you should go beyond the basics in your cover letter’s introduction. Make your intent, contribution, and skills known upfront.
Tip #3 - Use bullet points for your qualifications
There’s a good reason why we use bullet points so much:
- They help us list things effectively
- They get the point across
- They break up the paragraphs into smaller chunks and overall makes the cover letter easier to skim or read
- They summarize a lot of information in a digestible manner
See what we did there?
That’s what you should do when you list your qualifications in your cover letter as well.
Instead of writing everything out, use bullet points to sum up all your successes. The hiring manager will be immediately drawn to them and WON’T just skim through your cover letter mindlessly.
Tip #4 - Use numbers and facts
Whenever you describe your successful experiences, you want to enrich them with actual percentages, numbers, and tangible facts.
When achievements are backed up by real performance metrics, they boost your credibility.
So, instead of simply describing your achievements:
“I have previous experience with transfusion therapies and taking care of people with rare diseases. I also speak three languages, which can come in handy with patients from different nationalities.”
Use the power of numbers (and bullet points) to convince the hiring manager.
My 10 years of experience in the medical field have contributed towards my excellence in:
- Managing the medical care of 75+ patients with rare diseases.
- Assisting 25+ patients attending transfusion therapy.
- Taking care of 50+ patients from different nationalities, made easy by my fluency in English, German, and Spanish.
Tip #5 - Avoid cliches
Cliches are so overused, they risk making you look as if you have no original thoughts.
Any of the following can be a cliche (but not only):
- I am a great team player.
- I am a multi-tasker.
- I have great attention to detail.
- I am a good communicator.
After all the insights we’ve shared with you so far, you might guess why cliches are a NO:
They add nothing of substance to your content. And you want to use the valuable space in your cover letter to showcase why you’re a great fit for the job.
Whenever you are tempted to write a cliche, twist it by providing facts to back up your experience.
So, instead of saying:
“I am a great team player”.
Show them why you are one by describing your experience:
“In my previous position, I worked with five other colleagues from three different departments to arrive at a marketable digital solution for our customers. Working with individuals with diverse opinions taught me the value of effective teamwork, a lesson I am happy to utilize in this position.”
Tip #6 - Use acronyms correctly
Acronyms are great. They save up space and show the hiring manager that you speak the industry lingo, especially if you’re applying for a technical position.
And yes, chances are the recruiter understands all the acronyms you might use in your cover letter.
Nonetheless, you should never use acronyms thinking the recruiter understands them. Instead, write the word the first time around and put the acronym into brackets, and then you can go ahead and use just the acronym if it repeats throughout the text.
Here’s what we mean:
I have two years of experience with Amazon Web Services (AWS). I have specifically worked with Amazon Elasticsearch (AES) in my previous position. I believe the cloud computing service model provided by AWS can be successfully applied to your business model.
I have two years of experience with AWS. I have specifically worked with AES and AMI in my previous positions.
Tip #7- Don’t include your address
By all means, you should include your contact information in your cover letter.
However, your address or area of work goes into your resume, not the cover letter.
Tip #8 - Don’t apologize
There comes a time when you have to account for possible red flags in your work experience.
These can include:
- Getting fired or being laid off
- Having too many short-lived jobs
- A gap in your resume
- Lack of experience
You might want to rush and explain these red flags in your cover letter, just to let the hiring manager know there’s nothing to worry about.
We’re here to say NO.
Do not apologize or explain anything you think is “negative”. The hiring manager will bring up any concerns he or she might have in your interview. You’ll have an opportunity to answer there.
Tip #9 - Don’t be arrogant
Just as being apologetic is not a good look, being over-confident is equally damning.
Nobody likes someone cocky, so avoid talking in superlatives or praising your abilities.
Let your work experience and achievements speak on your behalf.
In my previous position, I surpassed my yearly conversion targets by 34%.
I am a great employee. All my previous managers loved having me around because I was the best at my job.
4 Nice-to-Have Cover Letter Tips
Tip #1 - Insert your social media and personal website
Including your professional social media or personal website adds an extra touch to your cover letter.
Hint: We’re not talking about your Facebook or VSCO. You probably take great pictures of your food, but that will not get you hired.
If you have a LinkedIn, Github, Behance, or Dribble account, however, it can give the hiring manager something extra to look at.
If you have a personal website with your showcased work or portfolio, even better!
Make sure to add a link to those under your contact information
Tip #2 - End with a call to action
Ending a cover letter is usually the hardest part. You’ve described all your achievements, thanked the manager for their time, now what?
We recommend concluding your letter with a “call to action”, inviting your hiring manager to take further steps.
For example, you could write something like:
“I look forward to further discussing how my legal skills and experience can help ABC with corporate and commercial transactions for its international operations.”
Tip #3 - Use power words and action verbs
Power words and action verbs are selected words you can use throughout your cover letter to make your achievements *pop* more.
So, instead of saying “I was responsible for” fifteen different times, you can use some action verbs to make your language more diverse, like:
- I managed a team of five people.
- I facilitated the communication and task allocation of five people.
- I coordinated a team of five people.
And so on…
They make your text flow smoothly, enhance the power of your actions, AND make your language more versatile.
If you want to sprinkle some of these magical words in your resume, check out our complete list of 340+ action verbs and power words.
Tip #4 - Get a second opinion
Sometimes when we’re writing we get so lost trying to put our thoughts into words, we lose sight of the bigger picture.
If you have a capable friend, recruiter, or career advisor, it doesn’t hurt to ask them to take a look at your cover letter.
Have them check it for spelling and grammatical mistakes (just in case you missed any) and whether they think your cover letter does your skills and qualifications justice.
Got the green light?
Ready to go!
And that’s it!
The road to writing your cover letter is filled with Dos, Don’ts, and lots of caffeine.
We hope you enjoyed the guide and have a good sense of what’s expected of you.
Now stop procrastinating and get to writing!
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