The subtle art of crafting an effective cover letter


How to write an effective cover letter

Clients often ask us if cover letters are even required anymore in today’s online recruiting environment, as they are often listed as “optional” on applications.

We strongly recommend including one for any position that you are seriously pursuing.

If you want the job badly enough, it's a must.

When done right, a cover letter can be the deciding factor on whether you land an interview – especially if you are applying for a role that is a bit of a stretch.

Think of the cover letter as your opportunity to personally make your case as to why you are the ideal candidate for the role.

Cover letter writing is a subtle art.

Here are the most common issues we see:

1) Not including one

We recommend submitting a custom cover letter for each position you apply for, as it allows you to do the following crucial things:

  • Demonstrate genuine interest: A cover letter shows that you are genuinely interested in the position and sets you apart from candidates who did not include one.
  • Elaborate on relevant experience: A cover letter allows you to elaborate on selected points mentioned on your resume that are particularly important for the role.
  • Provide additional information: A cover letter gives you the opportunity to provide additional information not included on your resume (such as why you have a gap in employment or that you will be in town for a potential interview next month).

2) Regurgitating information from your resume

You should use your cover letter to expand on bullet points in your resume and add additional information - not to simply re-state what you have already written.

When crafting your cover letter, consider these questions:

  • How can you go above and beyond the factual information already on your resume and tell the backstory behind how your accomplishments and projects came to fruition?
  • Can you add further detail on specific projects or initiatives you worked on?
  • Can you elaborate on the impact of the projects or initiatives that you helped implement? How did the organization benefit from your work moving forward?

3) Sending the same cover letter for each position

Sometimes it’s okay to send the same resume for multiple applications – especially if you are applying for jobs in the same industry.

Not so with the cover letter.

    Your cover letter should specifically make your case for why you would be a good fit for this particular role – on this particular team – in this particular company.

    With a carefully tailored cover letter, you convey that you are seriously considering the role and that you made the effort to do your research!

      4) Not tying your experiences into the job description

      The objective of the cover letter is to elaborate on how you are a great fit for the role and how you will succeed should you land the job.

      Therefore, you must provide examples of what you have accomplished and tie these into the requirements listed on the job description. For example:

        “In my current role, I built models to create 10-year pro forma financial projections in Excel, and I will be able to apply these skills to also create models that drive efficiency and decision making for your company.”

          5) Keeping the focus on you – not the company

          The cover letter should focus on explaining the value you will bring to the organization – not what you expect to get from them:

          • Don’t focus on you: “I look forward to learning more about the industry” or “I am excited for the opportunity to build my skills.”
          • Focus on them: “I look forward to applying my sales skills that I demonstrated in my previous role to quickly start adding value to your firm.”

          6) Forgetting to edit

          Believe it or not, companies regularly receive generic cover letters addressed to, well, another company.

          This careless mistake can instantly crush your chances.

           Ensure that you:

          • Keep your cover letters organized in a folder and name each file with the specific company name. In this way, you’ll minimize your chances of making this all-too-common error.
          • Double-check your cover letter: Is it addressed to the correct person – correct title – correct company – correct job – correct address?

          7) Not doing your research

          Make sure you thoroughly understand the position you are applying for.

          If you know you will be reporting into a certain VP, try to look them up on LinkedIn and address the cover letter directly to them.

          The more specific information you include, the more you will stand out. Including this information is a clear indicator that you did your research and are taking the application seriously.

           





          Matt Glodz

          Matt Glodz is the Founder and Managing Partner of Resume Pilots and a Certified Professional Resume Writer.

          After studying business communication at Cornell University, Matt worked within Fortune 500 companies, where he observed what drove the decision making of recruiters and hiring managers first-hand, noting that qualified candidates were frequently denied interview opportunities due to poorly written documents.

          At Resume Pilots, Matt combines his solid business and writing background - which includes prior work for a Chicago Tribune publication - to craft resumes that give his clients the best chance of landing interviews. He currently works with applicants ranging from CEOs to recent graduates and has been writing resumes for over eight years.

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