When applying for that dream job, countless opportunities exist to shine – and make that dream come true. From nailing a virtual interview to sending the perfect post-interview thank you note, showing you’re prepared every step of the way is essential. And being ready from the moment you hit “apply now” means an updated resume and a targeted cover letter that showcase your skills and speak to your ability to thrive in the position. But so often the cover letter doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
You hear it all the time – it takes seven seconds before a hiring manager decides between continuing to read your cover letter or moving on to the next candidate. Your cover letter can set you apart and provide context for your experience and skills – and it should. A great one may even be the difference-maker if your resume isn’t as robust as you’d like it to be.
If you’re asking “how do I write a good cover letter,” the answer is to keep it simple with a balance of impact and brevity.
Simplify your approach by following the three “be’s”:
1. Be relevant
When you’re trying to stand out during the application process, it’s important to highlight your unique abilities and how they can amplify the job and organization. Your cover letter is a great opportunity to tell the hiring manager what you can bring to the position and the company.
- Speak directly to what the company is looking for in terms of the skills it is seeking.
- Customize your cover letter for every job (really). Carefully read the job description and provide examples of times you fulfilled similar tasks in previous positions. Your cover letter needs to show how you can help the employer succeed, and you can do that by discussing how you can apply your skills and experience to this role’s requirements.
- Skip the “additional skills,” at least in your cover letter. You only have seven seconds, so if you have talents that aren’t in the job description, save that info for your resume! Instead, use the information the company provides as a guide to clearly explain how you can be an asset in the specific role you’re applying for.
2. Be precise
Hiring managers often look for data, especially when they’re skimming through dozens of cover letters. Be specific when discussing your past successes.
In addition to listing relevant skills, your cover letter should provide the stats that prove you are the best person for the role. For example, if you are in sales, you can mention placing in the top third of more than 150 salespeople for the past three years. If you’re in marketing, explain how a campaign you led helped your client grow its revenue by 30%.
Data will help you remain memorable when managers are juggling multiple candidates. However, remember to keep your successes concise and to the point. Include at least two or three notable measurables, but don’t go overboard or list your entire history. You don’t have long before you lose the reader’s attention. Again, stick to the specifics of what the employer is looking for.
3. Be humble
There’s a fine line between discussing your past successes and bragging. You never want to come across as full of yourself. Instead, allow your personality to shine through your cover letter, and let the hiring manager decide if you are worth an interview.
This may sound conflicting since a cover letter is supposed to prove why the employer should hire you. But an impactful cover letter is about finding that sweet spot between ordinary and arrogant. Instead of using hyperbolic language that says you’re the “best choice” for the job, focus your message on the employer and explain how you can apply your skills to help their organization succeed.
A cover letter is the first impression you give to a hiring manager. It’s your opportunity to stand out and prove that you’re capable of not only delivering on the requirements of the desired position, but that you’re also dedicated to furthering the success of the company and your potential team members. Choose your words wisely to make an impact that will get you in the door for an interview.
Jessica Van Eyck is a top recruiter on Vaco’s Memphis strategic staffing team. She specializes in marketing, human resources, management, administrative, and other professional positions.