How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter

Today we are talking about the next step to Landing Your Dream Job. You’ve spent time making sure your resume captivates attention and perfecting your resume design. But landing your dream job doesn’t end there. Most positions you will apply for will ask for a second document – a cover letter.

Most people assume that the cover letter is just regurgitating your resume in a story format. Often, applicants consider the cover letter tedious and boring because they believe it should simply restate what they’ve already said. If that’s what you’re doing, you’re missing a great opportunity to land your dream job!

The resume is all about you – your work experience, your skill set, and how you are the perfect candidate for the job. You spend the entire time outlining how your work history has prepared you to excel in their open position.

While you do want to sell yourself in a cover letter, it’s really your chance to flatter the company. Your cover letter is your opportunity to show how impressed you are with the position and the organization. Employers not only want to know if you have the skills to be successful but also want to know how your personality will fit in their organization.

Later this week we’ll sit down and discuss the best ways to prep for the interview you’re sure to land. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get started on your perfect cover letter.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, read our Disclosures.

Letter to Harry Potter

Write to Someone – Even if it’s the Wrong Person!

Addressing your cover letter takes some time and energy. Try to find out who you might report to if you are hired in this position. Starting your cover letter with “Dear Hiring Comittee” or “To Whom it May Concern” may be grammatically correct, but it does little to show that you are serious about the position. Let me give you a few tips on some great resources you can use to help you try to identify to whom you should address your cover letter.

The best place to start is the company’s website. Many organizations list their key leaders on their website. Some take it a step further and provide bios on every employee at the company. In my career field, companies list out everybody.

You’ll score massive points on your resume if you can figure out exactly who you will report to and address them on your cover letter personally. It tells a prospective employer that you spent a significant amount of time trying to get your cover letter just right and that you are ready to commit to their company.

Another great resource is LinkedIn. If the company website isn’t providing any momentum, you can do a search in LinkedIn and find individuals employed at the organization. It’s not a perfect method, and you may not find the exact person. But it should give you a starting point on where to look.

Related: An Unforgettable Thank You Card

If you find a name and can’t figure out if they are the right person, you can always type their name and company into Google and see if anything comes up. I once found the meeting notes from a board of trustees meeting that outlined my boss’s proposal for the position I was applying for – just by doing a google search. It was a treasure trove of information that helped me take my research a step above others. And all I was looking for was whether she was listed as Dr. or Mrs. Last Name!

Here’s the big secret: Even if you identify the wrong person, the committee will still be impressed with you. The trick is you need to identify a person that is still employed there and works in a position related to the one you’re applying to.

The first time I applied to my current organization, I put the name of the vice-chancellor of fundraising on my cover letter. (I applied to two different positions – that’s another blog post in and of itself!) I don’t report to the vice-chancellor. In fact, our paths cross very little. I directly report to the associate vice-chancellor, which became clear in the interview.

At the same time, the logic behind my choice was sound. I had picked the wrong person, but it was a specific person in authority over the department I was applying for. The associate vice-chancellor was pleased that I took the time to research a name instead of taking the easy way out and writing the generic “To Whom it May Concern” on my cover letter.



Man and woman exiting work

This is Your Dream Job – Tell Them Why!

Want to create a great relationship? Focus on the other person. Or in this instance, take some time on your cover letter to focus on how impressed you are with the organization. After all, this is your dream job! This isn’t just about getting a paycheck. This is a company that has captured your attention and has been on your mind for a while. Let them know that!

While I advise staying away from too casual of a tone, you can share a personal story about your connection to the organization if it helps highlight your commitment to the position and the organization. Let’s say you’re applying to work at a hospital. It’s a great first impression if you can talk about how impressed you were with the level of care you personally received. It’s even better if you can say that the hospital left such a strong impression on you that you made a decision to find employment there.

Show your belief in their product or company. Demonstrate how it has positively impacted your life or the life of those you love. The hiring committee will be completely convinced by your cover letter that you have to be included in the first round of interviews!

Be careful, though. This tactic only works if you are as genuine and authentic as possible. Don’t try to force a relationship or an experience if one doesn’t exist. It’s the same as faking credentials in your resume. It might work initially, but eventually someone will realize that you didn’t actually accomplish what you said you did – and the damage it will cause will be beyond repair.

If you’re not connected to the company personally, do some research on their values and culture. In your cover letter, you can then highlight how you share those same values and how impressed you are with the organization.

Related: Acing the Phone Interview

Hands In for teamwork

Describe a Past Success in Detail

It’s true that your cover letter shouldn’t rehash your resume. But this is a time to tell a story and a great way to show exactly how you accomplished an important success on your resume.

After all, resumes are a snapshot. They say what you’ve done but not how you accomplished it. When you give details into the process of how you achieved your accomplishments, your future employer will be able to see how you can use those same skills in their open position.

Start by reviewing the job description and identify a key responsibility that you would be responsible for. Is it managing other members of a team, designing a new product, creating new relationships, or something else?

Once you’ve identified a specific responsibility, pick a successful experience from your work history. One that shows you can do the same for your potential employer. In your cover letter, walk them through the steps that led to your success, your ability to execute your vision, and the astounding results you achieved.

Related: Conquering the Skype Interview

 



woman holding a cup of coffee looking at a laptop

Make it Obvious You Did Your Research

You already know this is your dream job. Show your prospective employer you know their company. You need to do this even if you’re applying to work at a large corporation. Companies love to brag about themselves and how they are better than their competition. They want to entice the right people to buy their product or apply for open positions. If you’re not sure where to look, scroll down to the very bottom of a website. I can almost guarantee that it will have an about section.

Just now, I took a moment and pulled up Amazon.com. I wanted to see what I could pull from a HUGE corporation with thousands upon thousands of employees. The page naturally directed me to details about Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, top products, recommendations, etc. As I scrolled down, I found in the footer of the page the Get to Know Us section. And the section had a handy dandy link that said About Amazon.

By clicking on the different sections, I found some great source material for a cover letter. In the Our Innovations section, it states, “We get our energy from inventing on behalf of our customers.” If you’re in product design, this a great time to share how the opportunity to fulfill a client’s need brings you personal satisfaction; a value you share with the company. And away you go describing your success!

It’s not just product design. You could research initiatives listed on their website, details of the product they provide to their consumers, or values praised as a part of their company culture. Knowing these details will set you apart from the competition.

Related: Preparing for the Interview

 

woman holding iphone while working on a laptop

Finally, Pay Attention to the Details!

There are a lot of little details that, left unchecked, will hinder the impact of your cover letter  Here’s my obvious list of suggestions to ensure all of the small things are in place:

  • Make sure your cover letter is grammatically correct. Pay attention to sentence structure, verb tenses (easily my weakest area!), and punctuation.
  • Proofread your resume by reading it out loud.
  • Keep your cover letter to the point. I NEVER go past one and a half pages for fear of losing interest or, more importantly, sounding too arrogant by listing all of my amazing successes. After all, I need something to talk about in the interview!
  • Put an address block on the top. You’re a professional, write a professional letter.
  • Pay attention to the structure of the letter. Avoid lengthy paragraphs. Make sure you have more than one line or a signature on page two. Those sorts of things

What cover letter techniques have worked for you in the past?

Think your cover letter should just rehash your resume? If that's what you're doing, you’re missing a great opportunity to land your dream job! We've got our tips for your perfect cover letter. job search | career advice for millennials | landing your dream job | cover letter | resume | resume tips

Think your cover letter should just rehash your resume? If that's what you're doing, you’re missing a great opportunity to land your dream job! We've got our tips for your perfect cover letter. job search | career advice for millennials | landing your dream job | cover letter | resume | resume tips
Think your cover letter should just rehash your resume? If that's what you're doing, you’re missing a great opportunity to land your dream job! We've got our tips for your perfect cover letter. job search | career advice for millennials | landing your dream job | cover letter | resume | resume tips
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1 Comment

  • Reply My Sons Father April 9, 2018 at 6:35 am

    Great suggestions! It’s been a long time since I’ve had to write a cover letter and it’s entirely possible I won’t ever have to write one again, but my wife is considering a job change and I just sent this on to her.

    I have been guilty of the “To whom it may concern…” approach, but I really like the idea of personalizing it. It will separate it from the pack. Great stuff!

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