A strong cover letter can set you up apart in the application process, but you have to be careful. It can either bring you to the front of the line for an interview or out the door. Recruiters use a cover letter to sort through competitive applicants and add more context to a one-page resume. Plus, it’s helpful to see how a potential candidate communicates on paper. LinkedIn can help you make a cover letter that will push you to the front of the line.
Bonus tip: If an application says a cover letter is “optional”. It’s not optional. Always add a cover letter. If an application does not ask for a cover letter, then don’t send an extra document.
#1 Cover the Basics
The basics of any cover letter are the header, greeting, introduction, body, conclusion, salutations and signature. The University Career Services created an excellent guide that can walk you through the basics a strong cover letter. I strongly encourage you to check out that resource. I’ll cover the basics briefly as well.
Before you begin, keep in mind that your letter needs to be one page from start to finish. During the rough draft stage, it can be as long as the Harry Potter series, but the final draft you turn in with your resume needs to be no longer than one page from the header to the signature.
Learn more about how to use LinkedIn to revamp your resume!
This includes your physical address, the company’s physical address and the date. Make sure there is space between these three items so it doesn’t look crowded. If you’re running out of space, you can take out the addresses and just leave the date.
In a perfect world, you know exactly who is going to be interviewing you. However, in this world, you probably won’t. In that case, it’s okay to address the letter to a “Hiring Manager”.
Include the position you are applying for, your intention for the role, any mutual connections if they exist (don’t be tempted to make stuff up) and basic information about yourself. Remember to be concise. You are elaborating on qualities that would make you perfect for the role. It’s about how you fill the company’s need, not how the company fills your need for a job.
This is where you impress them with your knowledge of the company and you draw specific connections between your skills set and the needs of the company. Remember, it’s about them, not you. You need to address as specifically as possible how hiring you would help the company further their own interests. This is also an opportunity to impress the recruiter with your knowledge of the industry and the company, but do not ramble. Be concise and stay on message.
Ask for the interview here. Make it clear that you are eager to sit down in person and talk further about your experiences and answer any questions or concerns they may have. This is also the place to review the essential characteristics you possess that will help the company. You don’t have to tell them your whole life story- just enough to get you in the door. The goal is to land an interview.
I encourage you to use a basic salutation like “Sincerely” but if there is a branded salutation that the company is known for using then use that salutation instead.
If this is going to be a digital submission then end the letter with your name. To go above and beyond add a digitized signature.
The Cover Letter Checklist
Header | Greeting | Introduction | Body | Conclusion | Salutations | Signature
Bonus tip: Do not recycle the same cover letter for multiple positions. People can tell and it’s a sign a laziness. Each cover letter should be customized for the unique position to which you are applying. That means if you are applying for multiple positions in the same company, you should have a unique resume and cover letter for each position.
#2 Look up the Company
The most reliable information you’ll find about a company is the information they use to describe themselves. In addition to going to their site, look on LinkedIn to find original articles. See what type of content they post and repost. If something big is coming up in the company, they’re probably sharing the news on LinkedIn. Make sure to incorporate some of those key details in your cover letter when appropriate.
Again, don’t go overboard. You want to make sure that every piece of information you include in your letter is relevant and to the point, but make an effort to show that you did your homework.
Learn more about how to use LinkedIn to conduct company research!
#3 Research the Founders
Learning more about the Founders of a company will give you insight into the culture of the company. This will be super helpful if you are trying to join an SMB (small or medium business). If you are targeting a larger company then look for the local or regional managers. The goal is to connect with the people you will be interfacing with the most.
Once you find these people, LinkedIn-stalk them. Don’t be creepy and no you don’t have to send a LinkedIn request, but take a look at their feed and see the type of content they create and repost. Try to incorporate some of the language you see them use into your cover letter so when they read it, it feels familiar. Again, be concise and straight to the point. The goal is to score an interview.
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#4 Research other Employees
If this is an SMB, then it’ll be relatively easy to find other employees who work in that environment. Take some time to study their profiles and get a sense of their character and interests. If you already know someone in that environment, you’re already ahead of the curve. If not, don’t feel pressured to connect with them on LinkedIn.
If you are trying to leverage your way into a larger company then look for connections who currently or previously worked at that company. Ask them for their insight and advice.
Never ask them to pull favors for you or land you a job. Chances are they can’t and it just makes people nervous and uneasy. Instead, ask for advice. Everyone has an altruistic streak and most wouldn’t mind sharing their experiences.
Learn more about how to use LinkedIn to transition to another industry!
Above all else, make sure your cover letter is one page only and error-free. I know this is a lot of information to digest. Remember, the goal of a cover letter is to get you to that interview. The point is to pique someone’s interest enough to offer you an interview or give you a phone call.
This is not the time or place to break into a song and dance about how awesome you are. Also, be careful not to write a one page summary of your resume. That’s not helpful either.
A cover letter is designed to compliment your resume. The same way earrings should compliment your shoes and your shoes and earrings should compliment the dress and the dress should compliment you. You are the final product. The dress, earrings, and shoes help showcase your potential.
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How often have you been required to write a cover letter for a position? How long does it take you to write a good cover letter? Share your experiences in the comment section!Repo