A cover letter is a formal letter that accompanies your resume when applying for a job. It highlights your relevant qualifications, passion for the company and role, and intent to apply for the open position. The main purpose of a cover letter is to expand upon your resume summary and showcase both your written communication skills and genuine interest in the job. Taking the time to craft a thoughtful, professional cover letter can help your application stand out from the pile. Continue reading for tips on how to master the art of writing effective cover letters.
Before You Start
Don’t begin writing until you’ve done your homework. First, carefully read the job description. Make note of the required and preferred qualifications. Get a sense for the duties you would perform and skills needed to succeed. Next, research the company’s website, news and social media. Get to know their mission, values, culture and products/services. Understanding the role and company will help you tailor your cover letter. Finally, reflect on your own background, accomplishments and unique strengths. Know how these align with the position as you articulate your fit in the letter.
A cover letter generally follows a standard business letter format. Include your contact information in a header at the top. Then begin with a formal greeting addressed to the hiring manager, recruiter or search committee. The opening paragraph should grab attention, name the position you are applying for and specify where you learned of the opportunity. The body includes two to three paragraphs highlighting your strongest qualifications. Use specific examples to demonstrate skills, achievements and responsibilities that directly relate to the role requirements. Finally, close by expressing appreciation for consideration, restating your enthusiasm and providing contact info.
You only have a few sentences to hook the reader, so make them count. Begin with an engaging opening statement about why you are excited to apply for this position. Be specific in naming the exact job title and how you heard about the opening. For example, “As a dedicated marketing professional with 5 years’ experience, I was thrilled to see your opening for a Marketing Manager role posted on your company website.” This draws them in, establishes your intent and shows you have done your homework about the company.
First Body Paragraph
Now present your most compelling and relevant qualification, experience or achievement. Provide specifics to illustrate your background. For example, “In my current marketing role at ABC Company, I spearheaded a digital advertising campaign that resulted in a 20% increase in website clicks year-over-year. I managed the project from concept to completion, collaborating cross-functionally to execute paid search and social media ads. The success of this campaign underscored my strengths in managing budgets, analysing metrics and driving growth through innovative marketing strategies.” This level of detail is far more powerful than merely stating you have digital marketing experience.
Second Body Paragraph
Continue highlighting your background in the next section. For example, you may emphasize a key skill like “Over the course of my career, I have honed exceptional writing and editing skills. For instance, at my previous company I authored a series of marketing emails that helped boost our open rate from 20% to 30% in just one quarter. I was also chosen to lead website content overhaul initiatives multiple times thanks to my proven ability to develop high-impact copy that engages audiences.” Relate this back to the job posting by noting required skills like written communication abilities.
Third Body Paragraph
If you have additional relevant points to make about your candidacy, include them in a concise third paragraph. This might highlight achievements or skills from earlier in your career if they pertain to the role. You could also emphasize transferable abilities here like problem-solving, teamwork or capacity to learn quick. However, be selective about what you include to keep the letter focused. Lead with your strongest qualifications upfront.
Wrap up your cover letter with a strong closing paragraph. Thank the reader for their time and consideration. Reiterate your passion for the company and belief you are an excellent match for the position. For example, “I am truly excited by the prospect of bringing my skills and experience to bear as your next Marketing Manager. ABC Company’s commitment to quality and customer service closely align with my own values. Thank you for your consideration of my application. I look forward to discussing the opportunity further.”
Use standard business letter formatting for optimal readability. Choose 11- or 12-point professional fonts like Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. Paragraphs should be single spaced with an extra space between them. Margins can range from .5 to 1 inch. Aim to limit your cover letter to 1 page in length. This conciseness allows you to focus on only the most relevant details. Ensure all contact information is up to date. Proofread closely to eliminate any spelling, grammar or typo errors.
While you want to follow a standard structure, it is critical to customize your letter for each application. Thoroughly research both the company and specific position to inform your content. Address the letter directly to the hiring manager or recruiter by name if possible. Mention specifics about why you want to work for this particular company and team. Note how your background aligns closely with the required and preferred qualifications. This level of personalization and specificity is key for making your letter unique.
Nothing undermines a cover letter like sloppy mistakes. Be sure to set the letter aside after drafting, then come back and proofread from scratch with fresh eyes. Read every sentence out loud to catch awkward phrasing. Correct any spelling or grammar errors. Ask a friend or career counsellor to review and provide feedback as well. Finally, resist the urge to rely too heavily on spellchecker, as it will miss things like using “there” instead of “their.” Invest the time needed to polish and refine your language.
It is appropriate to note that references are available upon request or include a list of references with contact info in your application materials. If providing names, choose people who can speak positively about your qualifications for this specific role. Let them know ahead of time that you are listing them as a reference. Past managers, professors or professional mentors make good options.
Review and Critique
Once you feel confident in your draft, ask a trusted peer to review and critique your cover letter. Choose someone with strong writing skills who can look at it with fresh eyes. Be open to constructive feedback on ways to enhance your letter. Ask them to assess the content as well as tone, grammar and format. Take notes on what impresses them and any areas for improvement. Refine your letter accordingly before submitting the final version.
Try to submit your application materials as soon as possible after a job is posted, ideally within the first week. This increases the chances that your letter will get properly routed and reviewed. Follow up if you haven’t received any response within 1-2 weeks. A brief phone call restating your interest and referencing your application can help get you on their radar. Persistence and patience pay off.
Cover Letter vs Resume
While your resume provides concrete facts about previous roles and qualifications, the cover letter offers a narrative that connects the dots. It highlights soft skills not evident from a resume, like written communication abilities, passion and fit for the company’s culture. Your resume should be consistent across applications, but the cover letter is customized to tell your story for a particular role at a specific company. View it as the perfect complement to portray your whole candidacy versus just a list of past experiences.
Email vs Snail Mail
In most cases, submitting your cover letter and resume via email is the most efficient way to apply. However, a hard copy cover letter can demonstration extra effort. Use good quality paper and printing if mailing your application. Weigh the ease of email against the potential uniqueness of a paper letter to determine the right approach. Either way, follow up within 1-2 weeks via email if you have not gotten a response.
Don’t hesitate to follow up after applying if you have not heard back within 1-2 weeks. A brief phone call restating enthusiasm for the role and referencing your application materials reflects persistence without being pushy. You can also send a short follow up email reiterating your qualifications and passion for the company. However, avoid inundating a contact with frequent follow ups, as pestering will not pay off. With patience and grace, continue seeking feedback on your application status.
Avoid undermining your cover letter with these frequent pitfalls: Typos or grammatical errors, generic content that is not customized for the role, overusing “I” statements when describing qualifications, exceeding one page in length or failing to relate your background directly to the job requirements. Also, don’t rely too heavily on adjectives like “exceptional” and “tremendous” when more specific examples would be more convincing. Take time to get the basics right.
Keys to Success
Researching the role and company you are applying to is vital for an effective cover letter. Look for ways your skills and values align. Be sure to customise content to show the hiring manager that you want this job in particular versus blasting out generic applications. Convey genuine passion while being professional. Find a balance between confidence in your qualifications and humility in presenting yourself. Above all, be compelling, candid and concise in making your case as an outstanding candidate.
A well-crafted cover letter is your secret weapon to get a hiring manager’s attention. It highlights your communication skills and helps you stand out from the crowd. Be strategic in presenting your most relevant qualifications, backed by specific examples and achievements. Follow professional business letter formatting, but inject your unique personality and voice. Spend time customising each letter rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Portray your authentic enthusiasm and fit for the role. With practice and dedication to the craft, you can master the art of writing winning cover letters that get you the interview. Now get started drafting an effective cover letter tailored to your next dream job!
See sample cover letter
Here is a sample cover letter for applying to a marketing manager role:
City, State Zip Code
Hiring Manager’s Name
City, State Zip Code
Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name],
I was excited to see your opening for a Marketing Manager role at [Company] posted on [website]. As an accomplished marketing professional with over 7 years of experience driving strategic campaigns and delivering results, I believe I am an excellent fit for this position.
Most recently, I served as Marketing Director at [Company], where I spearheaded the development of integrated marketing strategies. During my 5 year tenure, I increased brand awareness 23% through innovative digital marketing initiatives. I also led website redesigns that boosted traffic 32% year-over-year. My analytical and project management strengths were essential in conceptualising high-impact campaigns, analysing metrics and successfully executing cross-channel marketing strategies.
In addition, I have exceptional written and interpersonal communication abilities developed through creating marketing content and collaborating cross-functionally. At [Company], I authored email campaigns and social media posts that drove double-digit increases in engagement. I also built strong relationships across teams to facilitate smooth campaign execution and sharing of best practices.
[Your company] priorities creativity, analytics and technology in marketing roles – all strengths I have demonstrated throughout my career. I am passionate about harnessing data and new platforms to develop cutting-edge, results-driven marketing programs. Your commitment to building brand loyalty aligns closely with my values. I am confident my skills would enable me to drive significant success as your next Marketing Manager.
Thank you for your consideration of my application. I welcome the opportunity to speak with you further about this role and how I can contribute to your marketing team’s continued success. I can be reached anytime at [phone] or via email at [email]. I look forward to hearing from you soon.