Do you shudder at the thought of writing a cover letter? You’re not alone.
Cover letters are the perfect opportunity to show that you’re likeable, smart, and driven—but if you’re not a writer the whole thing can seem like a nerve-racking complication. After all, if you’re applying for an IT position, you never claimed to be able to write.
But don’t worry. Putting together a great cover letter is simpler than it sounds. Here are all the real, practical tips you will need to create an amazing letter. No writing experience required!
1. Don’t rewrite your resume in paragraph form. The cover letter is an opportunity to talk about skills that you can’t include in a resume (personality, passion, dedication). Don’t waste it by restating everything that’s already listed under work experience. It’ll sound redundant to recruiters and won’t help you stand out.
Instead of going over your education and experience again, choose two or three soft skills that you think would make you successful in the role and focus your cover letter on those.
2. Turn it into a coherent story. Having each paragraph discuss a different skill is a good way to cover a lot of ground, but it can seem disjointed to readers. Start or end your paragraphs with a transition sentence in order to string your cover letter into a coherent story.
I learned all about customer service while recruiting new members for an on-campus stand-up comedy club. Every semester, we set up a booth in the busy arts quad and tried to get students’ attention while they rushed to and from class.
The first thing I learned was to keep flyers and hand-outs readily available. Many students were rushing to class. Even if my jokes caught their interest, they couldn’t stay and chat. However, most were happy to take a hand-out and look us up later.
Another important lesson I learned was to ask questions. People love to talk about themselves. By asking them questions about their favorite comedians and their previous experience in stand-up, I was able to tailor conversations to each individual. I built genuine connections and I was proud to see that many of the people I had spoken to attended our next meeting and asked for me by name.
Through this recruiting booth, I learned to connect with strangers, creating great customer experiences and getting people genuinely interested in what I offered. I believe this will make me an ideal candidate for the sales representative position.
3. Sprinkle in some praise for the company. Flattery might not land you the job—but it won’t hurt your chances either. Your cover letter should focus not on why you want to be a web designer, but why you want to be a web designer for that specific company.
Briefly mention what you admire in the company and what attracted you to the role. Be as specific as possible. For example, in this cover letter for a cosmetic company, the applicant mentions how they value cruelty-free products.
The biggest reason why I believe I would be a great addition to the CleanGirl Cosmetics team is my genuine appreciation for the brand. I love the fun and lively approach to cosmetics because this is how I approach my own makeup routine. As an avid animal lover and bunny owner, it’s also important to me that all my products are cruelty-free. I’d be honored to join your team of animal lovers and makeup connoisseurs.
However, don’t overdo it. Too much flattery comes across as insincere.
4. Strike the right balance between formal and casual. A little humor in your cover letter can show personality. Too much humor and it looks unprofessional.
The same is true for the opposite. A formal opening and good diction make you seem prepared. Too much formality makes you sound stiff.
Read through your cover letter, cutting out any slang and colloquialisms. Then read through it again, this time cutting out any words or phrases that you wouldn’t use in conversation.
|Don’t do this.||I am of the opinion that I can prevail in the nebulous world of sales due to the fact that I can advantageously utilize my aptitude for manufacturing rapport with patrons and consumers.|
|Clear & concise.||I believe I would be a great account representative because I enjoy building genuine connections with customers.|
Remember content trumps style every time.
5. Keep it short and sweet. Just like a resume, your cover letter shouldn’t be more than a page. If your letter is particularly long, choose the best parts and delete the rest. It’s better to hand in two paragraphs of good writing than five paragraphs of mediocre text.
Start cutting down text by looking at each paragraph individually. Does each paragraph contribute something new to your message? Any text that repeats what has been stated previously can be eliminated.
If you can’t bear to part with any of your paragraphs, consider the following tips for making text more concise:
|Combine clauses.||While working at a retail store, where I held the job of sales associate, I learned about customer service.
Can be turned into…
While working as a sales associate in retail, I learned about customer service.
|Use active voice.||I was provided feedback by my managers, which helped me grow.
Can be turned into…
My managers provided feedback that helped me grow.
Eliminate very and really.
|I enjoyed the design class very much because it taught me how to really make the most of visual elements.|
Extra: The cover letter is the place to address the elephant in the room.
Have you been out of work for more than a year? Are you a recent marketing grad applying for an IT position? Is your listed address in a different state than the job posting? Are you switching from a big corporation to a non-profit? The cover letter is the ideal place to address any of these issues.
The cover letter is the perfect way to show that you can bring more than just a list of skills to the table. Many employers prioritize candidates they believe will fit well into the company culture—so exhibiting your personality and strengths can actually help you find a workplace that is a great match.