When you’re applying for jobs, cover letters can feel like the bane of your existence.
I’m a writer, and even I find the process daunting. What am I supposed to include? How many dumb jokes can I throw in? Do I have to use “To Whom It May Concern”?
Here’s what they had to say.
Do cover letters matter anymore?
Although it sometimes seems like writing anything longer than a tweet is going the way of the dodo, cover letters still matter — especially if you don’t have a recruiter or a direct introduction to the hiring manager.
“A compelling cover letter can be [the] thing that grabs the reader’s attention and shares how your career story lines up with what that company is looking for,” said Foss. “It’s your chance to show fit as well as an opportunity to give the reader a hint of your style and personality.”
Plus, since most cover letters are bad, according to Foss, a great cover letter gives you a strong advantage over your competition.
How to write a cover letter for a job
Here are seven tips from these experts that will help you write an amazing cover letter.
1. Don’t use a boilerplate cover letter
Although it might seem obvious that you shouldn’t use a boilerplate cover letter for different jobs, Kermes said this is the biggest mistake he sees people make.
“You have to customize what you’re going to say to each individual,” he said. “All of us know when we get an email that was written for the masses, and it doesn’t motivate us to take action.”
So, whatever you do, don’t write a single cover letter and swap out the names of the companies as you go. Personalize your cover letter in every way you can.
2. Find a direct contact
This is one of Foss’ top three tips for writing a cover letter because it’s the “best way to ensure it gets read,” she said.
Rather than emailing the general “firstname.lastname@example.org,” try to find out who the hiring manager is — and email them instead.
The same advice goes for figuring out who to address your letter to; use the name of the internal recruiter, HR person, or hiring manager if possible.
Kermes said this tip is important because it allows you to tailor your letter to not only the company — but also the individual.
“Invest the time to learn about who you’re writing to and what’s important to them,” he said. “It’s a noisy world, and we’ve found that making emotional connections gets more responses than anything else.”
To find this information, you could:
- Call or email the company to ask who’s hiring for a certain position.
- Use LinkedIn or the company website to determine the name of the HR person.
- Search on Google or Twitter for “human resources [company name].”
- Reach out to any contacts who work there and might be able to help.
If all else fails and you can’t find a name, Foss recommended addressing your letter using “Dear Hiring Team” instead of “To Whom It May Concern.”
3. Nail the lead
Now that the salutation is out of the way, it’s time for the most important part of the cover letter: the lead.
If you think “I’m writing to apply for XYZ position” will get you in the door, Foss said you’re dead wrong.
“Start out with that as the lead, and you’ve lost me before I get to the second sentence,” she said. “Draw the reader into the story by sharing what about that organization most impresses or captivates you and why — specifically — you want to work for them.”
Foss recommended something that’s “memorable and thoughtful.” Be creative.
If, for example, you’re applying to be an event planner at a resort you visited growing up, she offered the following suggestion: “My passion for Timberwoods Lodge dates back to 1985, which was the year I first rode my bike (a Schwinn Lil’ Chick, complete with banana seat) in your Fourth of July Jamboree.”
4. Explain what you’ll deliver
Once you’ve hooked your reader, the next few paragraphs should explain what you can do for them and the company.
“Spell out very quickly and succinctly what you can walk through that company’s doors and deliver, with the deliverables of the job directly in mind,” said Foss.
It doesn’t have to be a guessing game. She pointed out that the job description will give you “some very solid hints” about what they’re looking for.
Kermes suggested using three to four bullet points within the letter. Under each one, you should “quantify the outcomes you can produce to solve your recipient’s biggest problems,” he said.
So, instead of saying “I sold $300,000 worth of products at my last job,” you could say “I will use my past experiences to double sales of your products in the next 12 months.” After all, if you write a rockstar resume, it’ll have all the details about your past positions.
5. Sprinkle in some personality
No one wants to fall asleep while reading your cover letter, so Foss said you shouldn’t be afraid to use a conversational tone and a bit of personality.
“We all get so hung up on the ‘what it ought to be’ or the rules for cover letters that we end up with the world’s most boring, say-nothing end products,” she said. “Dare to be different; just keep it on point with what the company is looking for and what you can deliver.”
As for busting out jokes and casual language, Foss said it depends “on your writing strengths, the personality of the company or brand, and the position you’re applying for.”
If you’re applying to be an auditor at a conservative financial services firm, keep it formal. But if you’re applying to be a copywriter for a funky ad agency, you’ve got more room to play.
“Gauge the culture and personality of the brand and adjust your tone accordingly,” she explained.
6. Avoid cliches and don’t babble
Foss thinks these are two of the biggest mistakes job seekers make with their cover letters.
“People rattle on about what they want rather than show the reviewer exactly how and why they’re a great fit,” she said. “Or they go off on irrelevant tangents in an effort to look witty or original.”
When you write a cover letter for a job, you should be succinct and remain focused on the reader’s needs. You also should avoid meaningless words.
“Many people stuff a bunch of cliches into cover letters like ‘proven track record,’ ‘results-driven,’ and my personal favorite ‘very uniquely qualified,’” said Foss. “You can’t be ‘very unique’ — that statement alone is redundant. You either are unique or you aren’t.”
Use your cover letter to capture the reader’s attention and address their needs (which don’t include cliches).
7. Add a CTA
OK — you’re almost done! Before wrapping up your dazzling cover letter, you need to add one more thing: a call to action (CTA) for your reader.
“Make it clear what you want them to do and what you’re going to do,” said Kermes.
Your CTA could include a timeline for following up or a way the reader can connect with you. Either way, make sure the reader knows what action to take now that you’ve totally wowed them.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.36% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.82% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.41% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.45% effective May 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.41% – 6.99%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.41% – 7.89%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.38% – 6.81%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.41% – 7.95%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.60% – 9.60%6||Undergrad & Graduate|