You are likely one of the many people wondering "Do I really need to write a cover letter?," and "Are cover letters really still a thing?" The short answer is yes. Like it or not, cover letters still have a purpose in the job search!
Value of a Cover Letter
In fact, in terms of all the materials utilized in a job search, cover letters are the best place to:
- Highlight your interest in the company and who you have networked with;
- Showcase your personality and why you are a strong fit for the company culture and the role;
- Entice the employer to invite you to interview!
So, now that you understand the value, the next key questions are how do I make the cover letter writing process enjoyable, and how do I use a cover letter to elevate my candidacy?
Writing a Strong Cover Letter
Considerations for writing a strong cover letter include:
- Be Concise. Ideally, cover letters should be 300 words or less (shorter is better). 500 words max.
- If You’ve Been Told Not to Write a Cover Letter, Don’t Write a Cover Letter. Remember it's important to follow directions.
- If Cover Letters Are Optional, Write One. Cover letters can showcase your strong written communication skills, and writing an optional letter (when customized) displays enthusiasm and interest. Cover letters are especially helpful for career switchers, as they allow you to explain why you are a good fit for the role in a way that’s not always possible with a resume.
- Check—and Double-Check—Before Sending Your Cover Letter. Nothing ends your candidacy faster than starting a cover letter addressed to Google with something like, “It is with great enthusiasm that I submit my application for the Amazon product manager position.”
- It's Important to Reference Current Employees in the Opening, but Do Not Reference Employees Who Do Not Know You. If you mention a current employee in your cover letter, they’d better know who you are.
- Unsure of Which Skills and Qualifications to Highlight? Consider specific characteristics and skills listed in the job posting, especially any preferred qualifications. Also, think about what makes you unique for the role. For example, if you are an internal candidate, consider all the company knowledge and relationships you already have. As a career switcher, think about transferable skills or crossover between your previous industry and this new one. As always, remember what you learned from networking calls. What did internal employees tell you were important to the role and/or company?
Structure of a Cover Letter
Based on the recommendations above, it's best to keep the formatting simple (like the image below). It's more important to focus on what you are saying than to worry about the visual presentation (we also know graphics don't work well with applicant screening software).
Overall, you want to show genuine interest and the research you've done in the opening paragraph, focus on your strongest relevant qualifications for the majority of the letter, and close with a request for specific next steps. Find more detailed information on what to include in each section here.
I understand, especially given the data that recruiters only review cover letters around 50% of the time. However, research also shows that hiring managers highly value cover letters as a way to gauge fit and a way to choose between multiple strong candidates. So, the tailored, custom approach helps as you move through the process.
Given that your goal as a job seeker is to present a cohesive picture of yourself as a strong candidate through all rounds of the application & interview process, consider the cover letter as a value add!
We are happy to review your cover letter to ensure you are showcasing why you are a great fit for the role you are seeking. Submit your letter for review here.