Back to the Basics: How to Write a Great Cover Letter
Your cover letter isn’t supposed to be a re-hash of your resume. The hiring manager has probably already read your resume…why would you make them waste time reading the same thing all over again? That’s not the point of a cover letter, at all.
Instead, it’s an opportunity to show why you’re a great candidate for this job. It should highlight your experience, convey your understanding of the job/company as well as show a little personality. It should be warm and conversational, not formal and robotic.
Here are some of the basics you can use to showcase why they should hire you and how you can stand out above the other candidates:
- Write a custom letter for each job. You can surely use pieces from your letter for several different jobs, but don’t just cut and paste the entire body and send it off. Express that you are truly excited about this particular position and the company.
- Use the hiring manager’s name. Don’t ever address it “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” Please. That just screams “lazy” and shows you didn’t even try to find the person’s name on LinkedIn or through the company’s website. Call the company if you must, but get the right name, or at least try.
- Use a great opening line. It helps to express your passion for this type of work, or tell a brief story specifically about how you are familiar with the company or some unique/impressive skill you bring to the position. For example, you can explain that your family vacationed at this particular property every year when you were little and how you love/remember something specific about the brand/hotel. Grab his/her attention with something other than “I’m applying for ___________position at your hotel.”
- Ask yourself some questions to get at the big picture of your experiences and accomplishments. For instance, what would you tell a friend about how you accomplished a particular task or what about you makes you especially good at doing this type of work? Make sure you share how you will help the company, and not focus on how this job would be good for you.
- If it makes sense, throw in some numbers to show what impact you’ve had in your former job or in a volunteer leadership position. Did you save money; did you streamline a process or find a better way to accomplish a task? If it’s measurable, be sure to include some facts.
- Write in the tone of the company. Take some time to read their social media posts, website, press releases, etc., to get a sense of the tone, language and culture of the company. You want to show that you understand the market they serve and the industry overall.
- Keep it short. No one wants to read a multi-page cover letter. It should be about three paragraphs (an intro, the body and the closing) and highlight what makes you a great fit for this job and how you can contribute to the team meeting their goals.
- Finish strong. Don’t just say “I look forward to hearing from you.” Instead, emphasize your enthusiasm for the job, or how you’d be a great fit. If applicable, here’s where you state that you’re willing to relocate or are flexible about shifts, etc.
Whatever you do, do not skip the editing process. That doesn’t mean you ran spell-check and there are no types (although that’s vitally important). You need to put the letter aside for a day or so and then re-read it for clarity and word choice. How does it sound? Are you warm and friendly? Are you being too wordy? Is the grammar correct?
Then ask yourself, “Does this letter sell me in the best light for this position?” Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes… does it make you want to meet this person? If not, take another pass at it.