Why You Should Write a Cover Letter on December 7

By My Perfect Resume

 

In the age of email, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger, hardly anyone pens real letters anymore. In fact, the cover letter is one of the only formal "notes" most of us still write on a fairly regular basis today. So, while you could spend December 7, which happens to be National Letter Writing Day, crafting an ode to a lover or scribbling out a message to a long-lost friend, it would probably be better spent mastering the art of cover letter writing. After all, this one-pager is critical to job search success and is the easiest way to set yourself apart from other candidates when applying for a role you want.

If you're currently on the hunt for a new position, why not use this unofficial holiday to write a cover letter for a specific vacancy you're eyeing? Alternatively, you could simply practice crafting cover letters for hypothetical roles to perfect this skill, or you could lay down a framework so that when you do start applying for jobs, say, next year, you have a blueprint that you can quickly and easily customize to each position you're interested in (remember, customization is key; hiring managers don't want to see generic cover letters).

Not sure where to start? There are plenty of great cover letter templates and cover letter samples out there that can help you along. Otherwise, follow the advice below to learn how to write the three to four paragraphs that make up this all-important document.

 

The Introductory Paragraph

If you only have time to perfect one part of your cover letter on December 7, let it be the opening. This is the paragraph that recruiters will initially judge your candidacy on, so you want it to be as original, engaging, and informative as possible. The idea is to cover the basics (like which position you're applying for) and to communicate why you're drawn to this particular role and why you'd be the perfect hire, but to do so without falling back on dull introductions and generic assertions. Instead, consider telling a (short) personal story that both captures your passion for the industry and demonstrates that you've done research and are familiar with the company's values and objectives.

Don't waste precious space detailing how you came across the vacancy -- that is, unless you heard about it from someone within the organization's ranks. In that case, you should definitely mention their name. Otherwise, write a cover letter opening that gets straight to the point, and try to inject some color and charisma from word one. If appropriate (read: if you're applying for a job at a startup or creative company), don't be afraid to zig where others zag and open in a bold, unexpected way -- the point, after all, is to stick in hiring managers' minds.

 

The Body Paragraph(s)

The body of your cover letter should elaborate on what you have to offer. Use it to unpack your skills, experience, and qualifications, and to show how they align with the job ad requirements. But don't just make unsubstantiated claims; instead, show what you're capable of by giving concrete examples of actions you took in the past that brought about desirable results. Express your achievements in numbers ("I managed a team of 22 developers" or "I helped to cut the company's costs by 17 percent in a one-year period," for example) and even consider including testimonials from former employers and links to online examples of your work.

Aside from focusing on past accomplishments, look forward into the future and detail how you'd contribute positively in this new role. Do research to identify challenges that the organization is facing and then highlight how you could use your skills and know-how to address them. If you feel that a different format -- a bulleted list of points, perhaps? -- would do a better job of capturing your strengths, feel free to play around with the structure of the body paragraphs. Ultimately, the easier it is for recruiters to digest the information, the better.

Whatever you do, though, don't dwell on qualifications you don't possess. If there's an obvious gap in your resume that you need to explain, then do so, but in general, keep the tone positive and the emphasis on the attributes that make you a great fit. Also, avoid simply repeating the content of your resume. You want to write a cover letter body that expands upon and adds another layer to your other job application documents.

Finally, remember to include industry-relevant keywords in your body paragraph(s) to make sure your cover letter gets the nod from applicant tracking systems. We recommend scanning the job description to identify important phrases worth incorporating.

 

The Closing Paragraph

In the final paragraph of your cover letter, you need to do a few things: briefly recap why you're the person for the job, direct attention to your resume, thank the reader for their time, and encourage them to follow up and get in touch. To make it easier for a recruiter to act, indicate when you'd be available for a phone call or interview and note the best way to contact you.

Your aim should be to end on a strong note and to exude confidence. Show that you genuinely believe you can do the job, and hiring managers will believe it too.

 

General Guidelines

  • When you sit down to write a cover letter on December 7, try to adhere to the following principles:
  • Keep your letter as short and succinct as possible. It shouldn't be longer than one page.
  • While you can and should show admiration for the company you're applying to (why else would you want to work there?), be careful not to overdo it. Your praise should sound sincere.
  • Be professional but not overly formal -- it should be clear that there's a real person behind the words.
  • Try to mimic the language and tone of voice used by the company. Take a look at their website and social profiles to get a feel for how they speak, and then echo this in your letter.
  • Stay away from clich├ęs and broad, empty assertions, and back up your claims with specific examples.

 

My Perfect Resume offers assistance with not only cover letters but resumes too! Check out our resume builder (which has been proven to help people get hired 33 percent faster). Also available are free, downloadable resume templates and resume samples in a variety of styles.