Use these strategies to improve your cover letters and get hiring managers reading your resume more often.
Keep it to a single page.
Always limit the cover letter to one page. No hiring manager wants to read a cover letter more than a page. Even candidates with extensive experience need to write concisely and keep everything on a single page. Remember, you have more time in your resume to show details.
Make your cover letter job specific.
The cover letter must be targeted to the job. Use the job positing to find the requirements for the position. These should go in the middle section. Take a look at the example below to see how to use a job posting to write your cover letter:
|Job Posting||Cover Letter|
|Advanced Microsoft Excel Skills
|I used Microsoft Excel to complete payroll for a 15-employee company.|
Show don’t tell.
You want to prove your qualities through your achievements and experience. It is not enough to say you are a “team player”, “hard working”, or “responsible”. You have to prove it!
This table shows you some changes you can make to make your soft skills more believable:
|I am punctual and responsible.||I achieved perfect attendance in my final year of college.|
|I am good with customers.||I increased customer service scores by 5% over a 6-month period.|
Use numbers to make your experience more impressive and believable. Notice the difference in these two examples:
- I have extensive customer service experience.
- I have over ten years of customer service experience.
Do you see how the second example is much more impressive? In the first example, “extensive” is vague. Does that mean 20 years? Two years? It’s confusing. Always use numbers when you can.
Focus on achievements.
The middle section of your cover letter has your experience and the reasons you would be a good fit for the job. Make sure you keep this focused on your achievements. Take a look at these examples:
- In my previous position, I handled customer complaints by phone and email.
- In my previous position, I reduced customer complaints by 15% in three months.
The second example is much more impressive. Use action verbs to show your achievements. Some of the best include reduced, decreased, increased, or improved.
Show your knowledge of the company.
The cover letter is the place to show you researched the company. Try connecting your values to those of the company, or show how you can address the specific challenges the company faces.
Check for grammar and spelling.
Great experience or education can be wasted by a cover letter full of grammar and spelling mistakes. Check your cover letter multiple times. Don’t rely on spell-check only.
Cover Letter Mistakes
Avoid these common mistakes when writing your cover letter.
Stating specific salary requirements
The cover letter is not the place to discuss salary. This should wait until you have been offered the job or until they ask you in an interview. Don’t eliminate yourself because you listed salary demands.
Repeating everything on your resume
Your cover letter should stand apart from your resume. Avoid copying information directly from your resume, and never make your cover letter a giant list of your experience.
Lying or exaggerating
You should never lie in a cover letter, resume, or job interview.
Describing what you want not what you will give
Employers do not want to hear what you will take from a position. They want you to describe how you will help the company. As an example, do not say that working for a major bank will help you improve your communication skills. Always focus on how you can help the company.
Too much use of “if” can make you seem weak. Here’s an example:
- If you believe I am a suitable candidate, please contact me for an interview.
This lacks confidence. You know you are a suitable candidate! Don’t let if statements ruin your cover letter.