My Tips: Cover Letters

Cover Letters- My Tips

Writing a cover letter is not always the most enjoyable aspect in a job search when applying for jobs. In fact it is a determining factor, in whether or not, your resume will be reviewed. In all my experience as a job seeker, as a recruiter and my background within HR, here are my tips and these are for more senior positions and experienced professionals with more than six years of experience:

1)   There are a few types of cover letters- application letter (targeting a job in a job advertisement), referral cover letter (name of person who referred you for job), letter of interest/prospecting letter (inquiring about possible openings at a company), and networking letters (asking for job search advice and assistance).  Using a generic template will not always work, and depending on how you found out about the job or your strategy, using a specific type of letter will work better.

2)   Be concise. Obviously state the details you need related to the job posting, but also leave some for the interview. Grab the attention of the hiring manager with what is needed and state very clearly how you meet the requirements for the job posting.

3)   Leave out, “I am applying for….” They know why you are sending in the cover letter, no need to write it in the cover letter. Introduce yourself along the lines of, “As an SME within the area of _________ I have seven years of experience with the following areas (list them out)”……….”  or “As an HR Professional, I specialize in Leadership, Communication and Administrative Management. I have worked within the HR Industry for the past six years.” There is a way to brag about yourself and sound professional at the same time, the trick is do it properly

4)   Avoid the use of “I” all throughout the letter. It’s not just about you, it is about the employer; you are asking them to invest in you for a position. What is their return going to be?  The return on investment is not just your salary or your benefits, but an increase in productivity for your department, or enhanced communication skills within your team; revamping processes to be more effective- the list could go on.  Why should the employer hire you?

5)   Be professional with your format and the header/footer your use on your resume should be the same as your cover letter.  Business letter format should be used, with one-inch margins on all sides.

6)   The tone of your cover letter should not read like you are face to face talking with them. This was the area I had to work on consistently due to my writing of poetry I had a tendency to overlap styles. Read your cover letter out loud, have someone read it to you and also ask for feedback from a mentor. Polish it so when it is read on the receiving end, the tone is that polished, professional and amazing.

7)   Lastly, your cover letter is your sales pitch, what personal/unique qualities about you, allow you to be the best candidate for the job? It’s one thing to repeat what you have on your resume in your cover letter but, your personality is what determines how you will fit in with the company, how well you will perform in the job and the value you add- sell your personal brand, not just your resume.

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9 thoughts on “My Tips: Cover Letters

  1. Although I’m not at all educated on this from an employer’s side I would’ve thought part 3 is completely wrong. Would it not be important to explain which position one is applying for? If they’re hiring for 2 positions do they not end up in the same mailbox?

    Also, how do you feel about the point form cover letter? I’ve seen it mentioned multiple times to avoid it yet I insist on sticking with the format I always use – I just think it makes my point so much more concisely. The meat of what I’m saying is in those points (how I match the qualifications, as opposed to why I want to work here and how I’m dedicated reliable blah blah) so if one wants to skim that’s the place to go.

    1. Actually, you just made a good point, these are more for senior positions/experienced professionals. Now, straight out of college/university you would actually be told to write that in, but as the stack gets higher and higher, it becomes redundant. You obviously reference in your letter the position before you begin writing your cover letter. So you letter would have the date first, full contact information for who is reading the letter, one line for Reference: Job Opening and then opening salutation, and then write your letter. How you present your specialties, your specific SME skill sets and achievements should actually match the position needs right away within the first paragraph. I know it’s easier to do point form, but remember, your cover letter is also used to imply your level of written communication skills- anybody can write point form. This includes grammar, transitions, persuasive language, spelling and if you know how to use a semicolon versus a comma. I only have used it myself to keep the cover letter to a page or less, because if the bullet points were to push it over a page, then it makes sense. Hope that helps, thanks for reading and thanks for the feedback/discussion surrounding the topic.

  2. >one line for Reference: Job Opening

    ahh but that’s an interesting point. I do do that however I thought it was my own invention because I’m awesome and all that. oh and because I’m always looking to make my letters more effective. however I dont imagine most people do this, so anyone reading this has just learned something. maybe put up a picture of what a sample cover letter should look like?

    i disagree with you over the point form thing, though yes I agree that your letter should be demonstrative of your communication skills. i think i’ve done both. with that said you’re the professional and i’m the job seeker so visitors here should prolly listen to you over me! but i’m very hard-headed (taurus!) so am sticking to this format for now.

  3. I wanted to comment on #3 because I’ve actually received mixed guidance on the “I am applying for..” line. Many of my professors suggest using it as the opening line to the cover letter as it helps the hiring manager know what position, department, where you found the listing, and some sense of what they should expect from the cover letter.

    What do you think?

    1. I was often told the same upon graduating and while in school. As you gain experience, use communication skills in different work environments, and also look for jobs, it almost feels like a standard opening, rather than a creative approach which can be grab more attention. The other thing with cover letters, is that everyone has their own opinion about what’s right and what’s wrong, but the final analysis, is your personal brand, and that you grab their attention to read your resume and get the interview. Other options to, “I am applying for,” could be the following:

      1) As a Marketing Professional, the position of __________, matches my qualifications in the competency areas of (list them out).

      2) My background with (list them out) match the requirements of ____________ with your company.

      3) The position of _____________ relates to (what you are known for) and (what people seek you out for)

      I’ve always been one to want to stand out and not look like everyone else, because everyone in that pile will say, “I am applying for.”

      Hope this helps and always remember, your personal brand is what you are known for and what people seek you out for.

    1. Your resume has three goals:

      1) What your focus is within your career or focus towards the job you are applying for
      2) Do you have the supporting accomplishments, highlights and experience to exemplify that
      3) What value you will add to the company

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