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COVER LETTERS: The what, the why and the how.

In plain terms, a cover letter is a one-page document you submit as part of your job application (alongside your resume). Its purpose is to introduce and briefly summarize your professional background. It serves as a short introduction that concisely communicates your interest in a job opportunity along with your top skills and relevant experience.


Think of it this way: it is a letter that says, "This is who I am, this is why you should review my resume, and potentially hire me." It is your elevator pitch and, on average, should be from 200-300 words long.


Hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes for every job ad. In situations where applicant tracking systems (ATS) are not available to trim the pile, they essentially have to go through these one after the other. Your cover letter could be just what sets you apart from the pile, as not all applicants turn in a cover letter, much less a good one.


Sending a cover letter with your resume allows hiring managers to learn more detailed information about you, your accomplishments, and how you can benefit their company. Employers use cover letters to screen candidates for jobs before moving forward in the hiring process. Understanding the purpose of a cover letter and how to discuss your professional background is key for a successful job application.


Let's dive into the details; there are two things your cover letter should highlight:


How You Meet the Job's Requirements

Give details about your current and past experiences and how they directly impact your ability to succeed in the new position. Pay attention to the job description and pick out specific aspects of the job role that you can relate to your knowledge and accomplishments. Include numbers or percentages to back up your achievements.

For example, if you're applying to a marketing job that requires knowledge of SEO, you could describe how you handled several successful SEO campaigns in your last position and trained three new marketing associates on SEO best practices over your three-year employment.


Why You Want to Work for the Company

I know every job seeker's personal goal is career and/or financial growth, but employers want to hire someone who expresses sincere interest in the job's duties and enthusiasm for the company.

They want someone who relates to their company values. Why them? There are lots of other companies hiring for that position. It is important to be sincere.


Discuss a company's reputation, values, and growth, highlighting how this relates to your own career journey. This shows that you performed research about the employer and are genuinely interested in contributing to their success.


Now that we understand what message to send in your cover letter, how do you structure it?

- Date and Contact Details: Be sure to double-check your details, as this is the only way recruiters can reach out to you. You can also include hyperlinks to relevant social profiles like your Linkedin.

- Salutation: Do your research, find who the hiring manager is for that role, and address them appropriately. Where you are unable to obtain this information, a generic salutation will suffice.

- Opening Paragraph: This is your introductory paragraph. Introduce yourself, the purpose of the letter, mention the role, the company, and most importantly, your summarized professional bio.

- Middle Paragraph(s): In this section, you want to go into explicit details about your skills, training, and accomplishments. Be sure to include facts, data, and relatable anecdotes that relate to key skills mentioned in the job description of the role you are applying.

- Closing Paragraph: End with a brief overview and a call to action, reiterating your enthusiasm to work with the company.

- Complimentary Close: A closing salutation, name, and signature.


Putting all this together, your cover letter should look something like this template:


[First name] [Last name]

[Phone number] | [Professional email address] | [City], [State]

[Date]


[Company name]

Dear [Hiring manager's name],


[Express excitement for the position including the role title and the company name]. [Introduce yourself professionally, explaining why you're applying for the job and how the job aligns with your career goals and what specifically draws you to the company].


[Explain your relevant experience and qualifications without repeating what's in your resume]. [Highlight one-to-two relevant achievements with facts and data when possible.] [Explain why you'd be a good fit for the company].


[Optional - address employment gap or career transition].[Express gratitude]. [Summarize qualification]. [Restate interest in role].


[Call to action + availability and preferred contact method]


[Closing salutation],

[Signature]


Additional Tips

Here are some added things to consider when writing a cover letter that would capture an employer's attention:

- Pick an Appropriate Voice and Tone: Write like yourself, but research the company to get an idea of what tone and voice to use. For example, the voice and tone you use for a marketing design company may differ from a legal consulting firm.

- Use a Consistent Format: A simple format on your cover letter can make your writing easier to read. Avoid distracting the reader, use a template with a simple graphic format, and a sans-serif font. It also helps to provide a feel of cohesiveness when your cover letter is in the same template style as your resume.

- Read the Job Description: Before writing a cover letter, read the job description closely to understand what the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate. Pick out cover letter keywords that emphasize the skills and experience you have that are beneficial to them.

- Pay Attention to Instructions: Some employers instruct candidates to answer specific questions or provide certain information in their cover letter. Be sure to read these notes carefully.

- Diversify Your Word Choice: Try to use more creative word variations, such as "tenacious" instead of "determined," and begin with an attention-grabbing starting sentence.

- Keep it Short: The length of your cover letter may ultimately depend on the number of details you include and if the employer specifies a minimum or maximum length. Be as clear and concise as possible to illustrate your qualifications.


Remember that your cover letter is a more personal representation of your skills and background, not a reiteration of your resume.


At Resume Guru, we understand the power of a well-crafted cover letter to elevate your job application. Whether you're aiming to land your dream role or make a career transition, our team is here to help.

Visit our website to explore our range of services, including personalized cover letter writing that captures your unique professional journey. Let's work together to craft a compelling narrative that could opens doors to exciting opportunities.

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