Cover letters have grown ever more important recently. To help differentiate yourself from the hundreds to even thousands of other applicants, make sure to include these key components of a cover letter to capture the interest of your potential employer.
1. Start Strong
If a recruiter has hundreds or even thousands of cover letters and resumes to review, you can be sure you have very little time to capture his or her attention and keep it. How you start your cover letter is a make-or-break moment. This is your opportunity to not only introduce yourself, but also your moment to create an emotional connection with the reader.
A strong cover letter introduction will say who you are and the specific reasons you are applying for the position. Do everything you can to make it memorable, such as including a personal anecdote.
2. Proper Grammar and Spelling
Poor grammar and spelling mistakes are the easiest way to turn off your reader and ensure you do not progress to the interview stage. Your writing communicates your credibility, and errors will ruin it.
Here are a few ways to ensure your cover letter is error-free. First, read it out loud. You can do that yourself, or better yet, by using your word processor’s “read aloud” function to listen for spelling or grammatical faults. Also consider having someone else (hopefully someone with some editing or writing experience) review it.
3. A Call to Action
The call to action in your cover letter is the “so what?” Now that your reader knows who you are, why you are applying, and some of your qualifications, what are you expecting them to do?
If your cover letter were a sales call, you would be asking the potential customer to buy something. In a cover letter, you are asking the recruiter or hiring manager for an interview. At the end of your cover letter, make sure you communicate that. Thank them for their time and express your interest in hearing from them about scheduling an interview.
It may seem subtle, but this small inclusion makes your cover letter more active and less passive.
4. Proper Formatting
Proper cover letter formatting matters just as much as proper resume formatting.
For starters, make sure your contact information (including address, email, and phone number) is at the top of your cover letter, normally in the top-left or top-right of the page. Next, your cover letter should only be a few paragraphs long: a short introduction, some details about your most relevant work experience, and your final call-to-action. Also, make sure your font and sizing are consistent throughout.
Finally, save your resume and cover letter as a PDF to maintain formatting.
5. Optimize Your Cover Letter
As mentioned, a recruiter or hiring manager has very little time to read your cover letter and will likely be skimming the contents. To stand out during a cursory glance, include specific keywords in your cover letter that will stick out. Pay attention to the descriptive words or qualifications mentioned in the job posting itself, and work those into your cover letter.
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