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How to Write a Cover Letter: A Complete Guide for 2020

Kate William

7 min read

The job-hunting process can be exhausting. Searching for job offers, preparing a resume, following up, and finally, attending the interview, and facing the interviewer. But do you know what else is dreary? When all these efforts go down the drain.  There might be several reasons why you didn’t make it up to the mark, and one of them undoubtedly is the absence of an effective cover letter.

Type in “cover letter” on Google, and you get a number of tricks and tips. Well if you are a beginner, then you need a complete guide, to guide you from the A to Z of cover letter making. Voila, you are at the right place and without much ado, let’s see how to write a cover letter that does the work.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is nothing but an introductory letter, that is addressed to the officials of an organization where you have applied for a job position. A cover letter is no place for bluffing. It should be to the point and introduce you personally as well as professionally.

A cover letter helps the interviewer to gauge your communication skills and view how you see yourself as a professional. Thus, the tone of the letter matters. Make it sound optimistic, enthusiastic, but not persuasive.

Why is a cover letter necessary?

Many a time, you might have steered past the optional button near the cover letter column when applying for a job. According to Michael Tomaszewski, a certified career expert, and resume writer, nearly 77% of the recruiters prefer candidates who send-in cover letters even when it is optional. But, only 35% of the candidates attach a cover letter when it’s optional, and around 38% do it when it’s mandatory.

And that’s what the stats say. So, if you attach a cover letter, you are among the top few candidates who did so, and being among the top 38% isn’t a position you want to miss.

Furthermore, two reasons why recruiters give preference to candidates with a cover letter:

Makes you appear as a serious candidate

Preparing a cover letter isn’t easy. From typos to getting the tone incorrect, plenty of things can go wrong. If a candidate takes such risks to impress the recruiters, why shouldn’t they be impressed? Attaching a cover letter makes you appear as a serious candidate who knows what he/she is signing up for.

Gives insight about your skillset

A cover letter isn’t the elaborate version of a resume; rather, it complements the statements you made in the latter. It describes in detail how you managed to use your skillset for the successful completion of your duties. This can impress the recruiter and thereby, increase your chance of securing the job.

Reasons enough to make a cover letter?

How to Write a Cover Letter: The Ultimate Checklist

Writing a cover letter can be a daunting task if you aren’t sure of what to include and what not to. Before you start writing, think of all the points that can make you a unique talent among thousands of candidates that apply for the job. Here’s a checklist on what to include and what not to, and the dos and don’ts.

What to include in a cover letter:

  • Your address and contact details
  • Brief introduction about yourself
  • Address the person (official) you are writing to
  • Mention the job position you are applying for
  • Mention your skillset
  • Explain how your skill set matches the job profile
  • Why do you prefer to work with them
  • Prompt the recruiter to go through the resume and additional documents
  • Conclude on a friendly note and include a compelling call to action

What not to include in a cover letter:

  • Irrelevant skills or achievements
  • Expected salary or other benefits
  • Negative comments about your previous job
  • Misleading information about yourself
  • Personal reasons to apply for the job

The Do’s of a cover letter

  • Do use jargons related to the job position
  • Do use keywords mentioned in the job description
  • Do mention the internal referrer name (if any)
  • Do get the cover letter peer-reviewed

The Don’ts of a cover letter

  • Don’t have typos and grammatical errors
  • Don’t use readymade templates
  • Don’t write in long paragraphs
  • Don’t exceed the maximum limit (max. one page)
  • Don’t use over-flattering words

How to make a cover letter: a step-by-step guide

A cover letter can be divided into five parts: The header, the salutation, the body of the letter, the conclusive para along with a call to action, and the signature.

1. The header

The header or the first section of the cover letter is where you include your address and the recruiter’s address. This is an essential part of every cover letter and shouldn’t be excluded at any cost unless if you are sending it as a mail. In that case, you can include your address after the signature, and the recruiter’s address isn’t a necessity.

Here’s what to include in your address

  • Your first name and surname
  • Street address
  • City and Zipcode/Pin code
  • Phone number with country code
  • Your professional email
  • LinkedIn credentials (optional)

While choosing the style (fonts and themes), make sure that you list out the components of your address in such a way that it is easily readable. Avoid using italics or any unnecessary fonts to type your header section. Use a professional font and also stay away from colors in this section of the cover letter.

2. The salutation

Addressing the employer/recruiter by name will impress the reader and shows that you have done your bit of research about the company. You can get the name of the recruiter either from the job posting notice or from the company’s website.

Whatever you do, try to obtain the employer’s details and, make sure that you don’t use “To Whomsoever It May Concern” or “Respected Sir/Madam”.

3. The body of the letter

The body of the letter informs the employer about the position you are applying for, your skillset, what makes you an eligible candidate for the job, and the follow-up procedures. This section of the cover letter is further structured into three paragraphs for better readability and understanding:

The First Paragraph

The first paragraph is the bait you prepare to attract the reader. If this para isn’t exciting enough, then no employer is going to read your letter further. The paragraph should include the details of the job position you applied for and how your skills and goals align with that of the job.

To make this para enjoyable, you need to have thorough knowledge about the job position, beyond what was mentioned in the job description.

The Mid Para

The Mid Para is where you offer value to the employer. If you have mentioned about any achievements from your past role in the resume, this is the place where you explain how you achieved the feat. You could draw references from your resume, but avoid copying the sentences as such. If you play it smart, you can prompt even the employer to go through your resume as well.

You are free to use bold letters and bullet points to grab the attention of the reader, but follow a scheme and ensure the flow of reading isn’t disturbed. If you mention some figures that are crucial to your previous achievement, you can bold it. If there is more than one achievement you need to mention, then use bullet points.

The Final Para

The final paragraph is where you can impress the employer with the knowledge you have about the company. But mention only relevant facts. The employer doesn’t want to know the founding members, or established date of the company. Instead, draw a comparison with the company’s mission and your personal goals, and illustrate how it aligns perfectly. Give the recruiter a solid reason to follow up and consider you as a serious candidate.

4. The conclusive para/ CTA para

Choose an appropriate call to action based on your final para.

Along with the CTA, try to include a brief summary of the points mentioned in the body of the letter and gently remind the employer why you value this job position.

Eg. I am keen on meeting you in person and would love to know more about the job position as it aligns with my goals. I am available at so and so hours of the day for a phone call to discuss how I can help the company with the XYZ issues.

Once you have completed your conclusive para, end the letter with a formal closing like Sincerely, or Yours Truly. Make sure you don’t resort to informal closings like cheers, or lovingly as the goal is to maintain a formal tone throughout the letter.

5. The Signature

The format for the signature section of the cover letter depends on the way you plan to send the letter.

Hard copy
Sincerely/Yours Truly,
(Space for Signature)
Name

Email
Sincerely/Yours Truly,
Name
Address
City and Zipcode/Pin code
Email
Phone number with country code

3 bonus tips to make an effective cover letter

By now, you might be having an overview of how to make a cover letter. Once you have drafted a rough copy, use these three bonus tips to make your cover letter even more compelling.

1. Start with a passion/humor/creativity

Instead of “I am writing this letter to apply for XYZ position…”, start the cover letter with a short, yet catchy story that clearly showcases your passion for the role. This not only helps to grab the attention of the recruiter but also tells them how serious you are about the job.

2. Limit your achievement to two

If you have a number of achievements to share, control your instincts. Select two of the most relevant ones. If you go overboard with your achievements, not only you won’t have space to explain how you managed to achieve it, but also it bores the reader.

3. Be precise and to the point

This can be tricky because whatever you do, there might be a sentence or two that flatters you or the company in some ways. In that case, consider the three questions mentioned below and check if your cover letter answers it impressively.

  • Who are you (professionally)?
  • Why this role and company?
  •  What makes you unique?

If you have managed to answer these three questions, then your cover letter offers the value it is supposed to.

Winding Up

Once you have the final copy in hand, pass it onto your peers for review. Implement the constructive feedbacks and then go for the second round of review as well. The more your letter gets reviewed, the more refined it becomes, and the more refined it is, the more chances that the employer would read it till the end.

Congratulations, we have just cracked the ultimate guide on how to write a cover letter. Whatever you scribble on your cover letter, make it unique. Uniqueness is rare, and companies’ value that. Your zest and zeal for the job role should be conveyed throughout, and passion should prevail over the needs.

What are you waiting for? Take a print out of this guide, write a cover letter, and grab the opportunity.

Cheers for being one step closer to your dream job!!

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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