When it comes to the application process, you should know by now that everything you do matters. There’s so much attention given to resumes that we often forget how important a cover letter can be for our job prospects.
“The cover letter is an opportunity for you to tell the recruiters why you’re the perfect person for the job,” Peggy Padalino, vice president at JobFox, told me. “It’s also the place for you to show them you have good communication skills.”
You want to be able to craft a creative, easy-to-read cover letter, but trying to make yourself stand apart can sometimes go seriously wrong. I spoke to Padalino for tips on how to write a cover letter that will get you noticed and into the interview.
- Address the cover letter directly to the hiring manager or recruiter. If this person’s name isn’t in the job listing, take the extra effort to call or email the company and find out.
- Don’t reiterate your resume. The purpose of having a cover letter is to zero in on why you should be the one considered for the position. Otherwise, there’s no point in having one.
- It’s a professional document, so don’t go too over-the-top. Yes, trying to figure out ways to be creative may be difficult, but don’t go overboard out of desperation. And especially don’t say anything like this summer analyst did in his cover letter, which made him a laughing stock on Wall Street:
“I am unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker I know, and I love self-improvement. I have always felt that my time should be spent wisely, so I continuously challenge myself … I decided to redouble my effort by placing out of two classes, taking two honors classes, and holding two part-time jobs. That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups.”
- Make sure the reader knows you’ve done your research. Convey that you understand the company and its goals, and explain how you’d help it reach those goals.
- Always close your cover letter with an action statement. Tell the reader what you’re planning on doing next — for example, calling in a week or two to follow up.
- Keep your letter no longer than one page. Your cover letter is an introduction to yourself. It’s supposed to show that you have strong communication skills. Be brief and concise.
- Show the recruiter that you’d be a good match based on your skills. This is a trick Padalino highly recommends: Make two columns in the cover letter. On one side, list the top five requirements that the company wants, and on the other, list how you’d meet each requirement.