Looking for a career change? Have you sent your resume to hundreds of job postings but haven’t had any responses? The problem may be your cover letter. You may ask yourself “do I really need a cover letter?” The answer is YES!
Your cover letter is your first opportunity to introduce yourself, present your qualifications, and show the search committee you are a potential candidate for the advertised position. Our Director of HR, Osa Willis, explains how to write a good cover letter.
Personalize the letter. A recruiter can spot a form-letter from a mile away. You can have a general outline prepared, but for a cover letter to add value to your application, you need to personalize it to each position you apply for. Do some research on the company to try to figure out who is likely to read your letter. The HR Director or CEO are typically safe bets – even if they are not the hiring manager you show that you have done your research when you address your letter “Dear Taylor Tyson, HR Director”. Make sure to continue the personalization throughout the letter by highlighting experiences and lessons learned that match the job description of the position you are applying for.
Don’t repeat your resume. Your cover letter is supposed to add information, not repeat it. Your resume already lists your past experiences. In your cover letter, focus on connecting those experiences to the job you are applying for. For example “As you can see from my enclosed resume, I worked as a [title] at [company] for close to five years. In that role, I learned ……… which I believe will help me be successful as your [new job title].”
Answer questions the reader might have. Imagine reading your resume as a recruiter – what questions do you have after you’ve finished it? Your cover letter is a great place to answer those questions. Are you moving and looking for a job in your new city? Make sure that your cover letter explains when you are moving and how soon you will be available to work. Did you take a break between jobs to go back to school? Since resumes are typically written in chronological order, these things are not always clear in a resume. Highlight the reason for the break, and why you decided to go back to school, in your cover letter.
Don’t try to sound fancy. Use a straightforward, descriptive language in your cover letter and resume, but don’t try to add weight to your letter by using fancy words. If your habitual correspondence include superfluous and elaborate verbiage just be aware that over-using the thesaurus can make your letter sound stuffy and unnatural.
Final touches. The way your letter and resume looks does not change the content, but could still impact how the recruiter assess your attention to detail and interest in the position. You’re likely typing your letter up in Word and making it look nice, but depending on the settings of the recruiter’s computer, the font style and size, the margins, and the formatting can all change. To make sure that your cover letter and resume looks the way you intend it, save it as a pdf document.