What should a great cover letter include?
A cover letter you plan to submit with your résumé for a job you want should position you as a potential solution for the employer’s biggest needs or priorities. To help make it not just good but great, you must provide the kind of information that shows you’re paying close attention to the employer’s situation, not just your own and what you want. The cover letter needs to give a reasonable “teaser” of the value you can bring that not everyone can. It must establish a competitive advantage for you.
How do I write a good cover letter in 2021?
2021 is basically “just a year” in many ways. You need to write a cover letter that considers what’s going on around you and in the job market. What are the needs you are qualified to meet, and how can you present yourself as an asset in relation to those needs?
You also need to write a cover letter that does not contain mistakes! If you are not a good proofreader, ask for help from someone who is. Error-prone cover letters can quickly hit the employer’s wastebasket (electronic or otherwise) instead of the “call list.”
How do I write a badass cover letter?
By “badass,” I assume you’re talking about a successful cover letter. That is, one that motivates an employer to pick up the phone and see about scheduling an interview with you. It must present you strongly enough to distinguish you from your competition, or you might not get that call at all.
A word of caution: It’s all too easy to write a letter that’s just plain bad, not badass! How do bad cover letters happen? Usually this is due to one of two reasons: (1) TMI—you were trying to share too much information and ended up overwhelming the reader with a flood of details. (2) You forgot to communicate the importance to the employer of reaching out to you. It’s the “why you should want to talk to me” part of your message—the most important piece.
Here are excerpts from a couple of cover letter samples that would not help the job seeker impress an employer:
Poor opening paragraphs and too wordy:
I am interested in your opening for Operations Manager. The requirements match well with my qualifications, as you will see from the enclosed résumé.
In college I led a business-class team through a successful fundraising project. I also played competitive sports on various teams….
Later, I participated in….
Get to the point!
I believe I am well qualified for the open position, and I look forward to talking with you about it. Thank you for your attention.
This is NOT a call to action or statement of intent.
What are some tips to write the perfect cover letter for a job application?
If by “job application” you’re referring to the general process of submitting your materials for a targeted job opportunity, the main tip is to make sure your letter shows value for the particular job in question. What are its key requirements, and how well do you measure up to them? In response to a job posting, carefully review the specific, must-have items and those that aren’t mandatory but might be desirable to include if you have them.
How should I consider the job posting or job description when I write a cover letter?
This question touches on a common theme and has been covered frequently. Whether you look at a job posting or job description, they perform much the same function. The material gives you some idea of what the employer believes the job requires. When you write a cover letter, use this information as a basic guideline, not the final word on your contents. Any job seeker who thinks he or she can do the items mentioned can apply for the position—you can’t afford to come across as “just anyone.”
What are the most important things to include in the opening paragraph of a successful cover letter?
Ideally, the first paragraph of a perfect cover letter should include a “hook,” something that will catch employer attention quickly. It can take various forms, such as a question or statement relevant to the employer’s business situation. Occasionally, you might use an eye-catching quote or statistic. Too many job seekers make the mistake of starting with something generic, like, “I’m interested in your opening for XXX.”
What should I know about types of cover letters or if I’m using a cover letter template?
I don’t use or recommend a cover letter template. Your letters need to focus on encouraging a particular employer to call you. In most cases, you would have some essential information that you customize somewhat to fit each specific opportunity. As for cover letter types, that just depends on what the purpose of each letter is—to get an interview, to introduce yourself to someone you’ve been referred to, or some other goal.
Cover letter format can vary. Generally, I like to include these sections:
- Opening paragraph: Set the stage with an employer-focused message.
- Concise paragraph that communicates important, value-added aspects of your experience.
- Short paragraph with one- or two-line bulleted value items, around three or four.
- Concluding paragraph: Value message recap, reason for contacting the sender, request for a meeting.
- Special circumstances, such as relocation plans or availability for interviews.
When is it appropriate for job seekers to include things like relevant skills, years of experience, social media, or a call to action in their cover letters?
Every cover letter should include a call to action. Otherwise, it’s basically meaningless. Whether or not you put in elements like relevant skills, years of experience, or social media depends on the circumstances. Decide what makes the best use of the space.
Here are a few critical points to remember about cover letters. To be “great,” they need to:
- Get employer attention and generate interest.
- Drive home your value message.
- Be brief—that is, not go on forever. A few short paragraphs will do!
- Reinforce the message in the résumé, not repeat it word-for-word.
- Contain a call to action (such as a request for an interview) or a statement of intent (action the sender will take). As mentioned above, a letter without this element is incomplete.