How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter (Free Template)November 24, 2017
Are you using cover letters to your advantage?
When done well, a fantastic cover letter can “wow” a potential employer even more than an impressive resume.
Resumes are just a list of previous jobs and relevant skills. Cover letters are your chance to really shine — to show off your personality and what makes you special.
Before you’re even called for an interview, your cover letter will serve as your potential employer’s first impression of you. (So it had better be good!).
First, I’ll give you some advice on how to perfect your cover letter. Then, I’ll give you a FREE, easy, template for you to follow.
Keep It Short
Recruiters don’t have a lot of time on their hands to wade through pages and pages of text. Keep your cover letter short and sweet.
Three paragraphs is more than enough. If you go over half a page, you’re probably saying too much. Your cover letter should be read, from top to bottom, in 10-30 seconds.
Think of it as if you were talking to the employer directly. Would you babble on and on about yourself if you were introducing yourself to them in person? Probably not. You’d be succinct and give them a chance to breathe.
Jazz Up Those First Sentences
Let’s start with who you address your cover letter to…
If you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to, then just leave that part blank. Skip the greeting and get right to the intro.
That might sound weird, but, having no greeting is better than having a bad greeting. Nothing says “I don’t really care” like writing “Dear Sir/Madam” at the top of your cover letter. Or the ever-boring “To Whom It May Concern.”
Next up: Don’t start off your cover letter with “My name is Blah and I’m applying for Blabbity.” Sooooooooo boring. Everyone makes this mistake at least once in their careers when applying for a job — and it makes them look very inexperienced. The last thing you want is for your first sentence to make you look green.
Try jazzing it up a bit. Take a look at this:
Standard: My name is Lauren and I’m applying for the Head Editor position at 133T because I’m great at editing.
Jazzed Up: I heard you’re looking for killer editing skills! Look no further. As the Head Editor of 133T, I would use my 16+ years of experience to dazzle your readers and increase your search engine traffic.
See the difference? One is bland and doesn’t really say much. It has no personality and barely gives any information.
The second one not only shows off a bit of my personality, it also states what I can do for the company. Which brings me to my next point…
Don’t Keep the Focus on Yourself
If you’re repeatedly using the word “I” in your cover letter, you’re probably doing it wrong.
A cover letter shouldn’t be “I’m so great,” “I did this,” “I want to work for you because…”
Your focus should be 1/3 on yourself and 2/3 on what you can do FOR the company you’re applying for. Use the word “you” as much as you can without seeming like a used car salesman.
Statements like “I want to work for your company because it would be a great opportunity” just makes the recruiter think “Okay. It’s a great opportunity for YOU — but what’s in it for ME?”
Instead, focus on how you can help the company if you were the one they choose to hire. Say things like “Increased productivity, enhanced motivation, and double your sales are all things you can expect if you hire me as your new manager.”
This is even more effective if you can back up your statements with proof. If you’ve had previous experience helping companies in similar ways, be sure to mention it. For example: “At my last managerial position, I increased my boss’ profits by 25% in my first two months of work.”
Don’t Rewrite Your Resume
Your potential employer already has a copy of your resume — you don’t need to rewrite it as a cover letter.
Rather than talking about your previous jobs (resume stuff), focus on new things that haven’t been covered before. Or, if you’ve written down a list of skills on your resume, you can elaborate on a few of those that are most relevant to the position.
Since your cover letter is so short, stick to the things that really jump off the page and “wow” readers.
If your cover letter starts to look like a long list of achievements with no focus on the company you’re applying for, you’re doing it wrong. Remember: your cover letter should highlight what you can do FOR the company you’re applying for — it’s not a half-sheet of paper dedicated to bragging about why you’re great.
Do Your Research
Is the company you’re applying for extremely formal? Or are they laid-back?
Your cover letter should reflect the tone of the company you’re applying for. If you’re applying for someplace that’s a bit uptight, you’ll want to skip your anecdote about how you once ate three large pizzas in one sitting.
Or, if the company is more casual, you don’t want to come across as too “stiff.” You’ll want to joke around a bit and show the more fun side of your personality.
Do your research beforehand and write in the tone that best suits the place you’re applying for. (Note: this is another good reason that cover letters should always be hand-tailored for every place you apply to).
Give Them the Option to Read More
This is a tricky one. You’ll have to use your best judgement to decide if this tip is right for you.
In most cases, it’s a good idea to include a link to your website after your signature. That way, potential employers can click on your website link and learn more about you if they choose to.
This is especially important for writers, artists, photographers, and anyone else with an online portfolio or samples page.
If you’re a marketer, linking to your branding page can also be extremely helpful.
Again, you’ll have to use your best judgement. If you’re applying to be the manager for an aircraft refurbishing company and your website is filled with erotic Doctor Who fan fiction… It probably won’t impress your potential employer. In fact, it’s likely to confuse them! It’s just not relevant.
Format and Proofread
Always, always proofread your work.
I was sent a resume the other day that said “Here are a list of my qualifications.” It should have said “Here is a list of my qualifications.” It was a simple grammatical error, but my brain couldn’t stop clinging onto it, even as I read the rest of her letter. (Side note: don’t list your qualifications — that’s what your resume is for!).
If it helps, get a second pair of eyes to look over your cover letter before you hit “send.”
As for formatting, we recommend you send your cover letter as a PDF. Nearly everyone with a computer can open a PDF with no issues. That’s not always the case with Google Docs or .docx files. You don’t want them to not read your cover letter simply because they couldn’t convert it!
You should also be mindful of what you name your file as. We highly recommend you put your name as part of the file name. Example: LaurenTharp_CoverLetter.pdf
This way, your cover letter (and your resume!) won’t get lost in the digital pile. The recruiter can easily find and refer back to your letter with ease.
Alright. Now that you’ve got the basics down, here’s what you really came here for: the free template!
Here’s how your cover letter should look…
City, State, Zip
Your Phone Number
Your Professional Email
City, State, Zip Code
Personalized Greeting (or no greeting!)
PARAGRAPH 1: Wow them with your opening sentence! Come up with a creative hook that reels them into reading the rest of your letter. Briefly mention the position you’re applying for (in case they have several positions open), but don’t rehash their job ad. They already know what the position is — you don’t need to describe it to them.
PARAGRAPH 2: Next up, get into your skills and qualifications for the position. But keep the focus on THEM and how you can help THEM if they hired you. Really sell them on why you’re perfect for the position.
PARAGRAPH 3: Wrap up your letter with a “thank you.” Let the potential employer know that you’re open to talking if they have any concerns/questions. If you plan on following up on your own (rather than waiting for the recruiter to follow up with you), this is also the paragraph where you can state how you intend to do that.
Your printed name
Your Website (if relevant)
There you have it! Easy-peasy.
Use these tips and you’re pretty much guaranteed a call. Now all you have to worry about is what you’ll wear to the interview!
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