Writing a compelling cover letter

Writing Cover Letters

Six seconds. That’s the amount of time recruiters typically spend reviewing an individual resume. That’s the same amount of time you probably spent reading the previous sentence. Or about how long it takes Usain Bolt to sprint across a fifty-meter finish line. That means you’ve got to catch their attention quickly and hope they somehow stay engaged long enough to consider your actual qualifications.

When you’re trudging through the muck of a job search, much of the process can feel painfully automated. Resume. Application. Follow-up. Rinse and repeat.

And then there’s the cover letter. It’s typically the hardest part of the process, but it’s also an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Since there’s a high probability recruiters also spend very little time reading your cover letter, we’ve provided some of our best advice and resources to help you capture the heart and soul of the hiring manager.

Tips for Cover Letters

Start with a template. A good cover letter introduces yourself to the hiring team and clearly explains why you’re the best person for the job. There are numerous templates and examples available, so there is no need to start from scratch. However, it is absolutely essential to customize the text every single time.

Bonus tip: We recommend using a free formatting service like ineedaresu.me to create a visually coordinated and appealing style.

Research the company. This is your chance to show that you understand the company culture and you’re a good fit for the job. Read the website and consume any online literature in order to best reflect the tone, voice and ethos of the company. Use the job description to follow the application instructions and highlight any keywords.

Bonus tip: Consider using a program like jobscan.co to measure how well your text matches with that of the job description.

Tell a captivating story. Simply regurgitating everything you’ve already written on your resume is the best way for your cover letter to end up in the trash. Use the space to create a compelling narrative that highlights the reasons why you’re the best fit. This is your chance to tell the story of your most relevant skill with specific, measurable examples.

Bonus tip: Avoid awkward phrasing and overly formal language that could make you seem rigid and insincere. An honest, genuine writing style goes further than a robotic and formulaic tone.

Promote your skills. Imagine yourself three weeks from now, and you’ve just been offered the job. Consider the cover letter as your acceptance speech to the world. It can feel uncomfortable to toot your own horn, but if there is any appropriate moment to showcase your skills, this is it.

Bonus tip: The cover letter can also be the ideal place to address any gaps in your resume or other extenuating circumstances, such as a recent job change or cross-country move.

Find an introduction. You may not always know someone who works directly for the company, but you might know someone else who does. If not, use LinkedIn or Google to find the hiring manager’s name so it can be included in the salutation. When a person reads their name (or someone they know) in a cover letter, it triggers an inherent, visceral response, and it could help them remember your name as well.

Bonus tip: For more detailed information, check out this comprehensive guide on how to write a cover letter from our friends at the Zety blog.