With the growth in online employment applications (many of which make cover letter submissions optional), several of today’s job seekers hold the incorrect assumption that cover letters don’t matter anymore. The reality though is that they do. Cover letters remain as an invaluable and powerful tool within the recipe of employment success. Learn this, know it and follow the below cover letter tips to ensure you’re job application stands out above the rest.
1. Always Include a Cover Letter
Granted, there are employment applications that do not allow applicants to submit a cover letter. However, when a cover letter is required, or even optional, always submit one. Including a cover letter with an application shows a candidate’s:
- Actual interest in the opportunity applied for
- Writing skills (hiring managers often consider cover letters as a candidate’s first writing sample)
- Qualifications that are directly relevant to a job
Further, many job postings do specifically ask for a cover letter in order for employment consideration. Failing to submit one shows that a candidate cannot follow instructions. Hiring managers perceive this as carelessness and a horrible first impression.
2. Tailor Your Cover Letter to the Position Applied For
Effective cover letters directly respond to an employment ad. This means they outline those requirements discussed in a job posting. If, for example, a posting seeks a newly licensed attorney with excellent research skills and courtroom decorum, an applicant’s cover letter should include awards and experience in legal writing courses, research performed during clerkships and moot court/trial advocacy experience.
A generic cover that does not directly speak to a job positing never works. Worse are cover letters that contain irrelevant information. Tailor your cover letter to make certain your resume actually gets a glance.
3. Use a Powerful Introduction that Grabs the Reader
Consider an employment ad that seeks a paralegal for an estate planning firm. The vast majority of applications will likely include a cover letter that starts with something along the lines of: “I noticed your job posting on Indeed seeking a paralegal and respectfully ask for your consideration.” This may sound nice, but it does little to grab a reader’s attention.
Let’s re-write the intro into something like: “I am an experienced paralegal with over three years of estate planning experience that includes organizing estate assets, drafting probate filings and assisting over 150 clients with establishing a trust. This introduction shows a candidate’s skill level from the start and it will entice the hiring manager to continue reading.
4. Highlight Relevant Information on Your Resume
An ultimate goal in applying for a job is to get the employer to review your resume. A cover letter is the ideal tool to introduce your resume to the hiring manager. It should discuss education, experience and skills on your resume that are directly relevant to the position applying for. Don’t make an employer try and scan your resume to hopefully find the specific qualifications sought. Highlight them in your cover letter so you can lead the employer directly to those resume sections that you believe are most vital.
5. Use Proper Form and Style
A cover letter is not the best outlet to express your creativity. Candidates must stick to the basic rules of cover letter form and style. Some of these include:
- Placing your name, home address, email address and telephone number at the top of the document
- Ensure cover letters are addressed to the appropriate person (usually listed in an employment ad) using correct titles
- Limit your cover letter to three-quarters of a page
- Limit your cover letter to three sections – an introduction, a middle paragraph that highlights relevant qualifications, and a closing paragraph that requests an interview or an opportunity to speak further about the position sought
Never underestimate the power of a cover letter. It remains as an impactful tool to distance yourself from the likely dozens of other candidates applying for the same position. Adopt the tips above and make certain you stand out from the competition.