Most of us have written tens, if not hundreds, of cover letters in our time. We should be pretty good at knocking them out by now. But for some reason, cover letters can be some of the most confounding things we ever have to write. They are our potential entrée into a company, and they must be perfect in order to be effective.
Here are a few tips we at Robert Walters have to offer based on our years of experience helping candidates land their dream jobs.
- Don’t just use a template. Hiring managers read countless cover letters. Lest her eyes glaze over, make yours stand out with sharp writing, interesting content, and smart design.
- Drop a name. If you don’t have a direct contact at your company of choice already, solicit a contact through your network - in real life and on LinkedIn and other social media channels. Either way, make sure you are sending your letter and resume to a real person - not a “dear sir or madame” or a “to whom it may concern.”
- Do your research. Know who you are writing to. Research not just the person you are directing your cover letter to, but the company. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media forums for your research so that you are up-to-date on company happenings and news and also on the way the company and its leaders like to present themselves to the public. Mirror that culture in your letter.
- Open with a strong line about yourself. Instead of “Dear Sirs, I am very interested in the job you have open,” consider something smarter and more personal, with specifics about why YOU would be great for THEM.
“Open with something like, 'Given that you are looking for a sales rep with specific experience in the technology industry, I’d love a chance to talk to you about my outstanding achievements with automated marketing tools.' Anecdotes are always engaging, even if they’re simply humorous. And it makes sense to customize each directly to fit each role." - Nick Louca, Associate Director.
- Simplify yourself. Boil down your relevant experience to about three strong sentences, and consider bulleting them so they stand out. Make sure you are listing experience, skills, and accomplishments that pertain specifically to the job you’re applying for. Sum up your most important attributes, and also include a more personal angle on why you are in the right place at the right time for this job.
- Brag, but not too blatantly. If there is ever an appropriate place to boast, it’s in a cover letter. However, don’t get stuck starting every sentence with “I.” Prospective employers want to know what you’re going to do for them, not how the job is going to benefit you. Sell your skills in the context of how they will benefit this company.
- Don't repeat everything in your resume. Make sure that your cover letter also includes fresh, original content and a more conversational tone than your resume. That said, you will inevitably repeat some of the information that is in your resume; the cover letter is a sneak peek. It’s what convinces the reader to even bother to turn the page.
- Make sure your letter matches your resume in its design and style. It should have the same header, font face and size, colors, etc. Present yourself as a polished professional package. If you’re emailing the cover letter in the body of your message, also send it as a properly formatted attachment in case they want to print it out or easily save it alongside the resume.
- Proof your cover letter well. This should go without saying, but quite frankly, we are often surprised when people fail to review their cover letters in detail. Don’t just depend on Microsoft Word’s in-line spellcheck and grammar check; have someone else read the letter - preferably someone you know to have excellent writing skills. Programs like Word don’t always catch things like duplicate or missing words, misuse of words, and extra spaces. Nothing beats the human eye when it comes to catching mistakes and things that could simply be worded better.
- If you are emailing the cover letter, make sure your email subject line is strong. It should include the title of the job you’re applying for, but make it stand out with something more dynamic: “Experienced sales manager with perfect skillset fit for Salesforce.”
In marketing and sales, of course, a well-done cover letter is more important than in any other field. Your cover letter is the proof that you know how to market and sell yourself. And if you can’t do that, chances are, a company won’t want to take a risk on whether you can market or sell their product. So, no pressure, but it has to be good!
Anecdotes are always engaging, even if they’re simply humorous. And it makes sense to customize each directly to fit each role.
Find out how you can land a role in digital marketing.
Start your sales and marketing job search today.
Robert Walters Salary Survey:
Request a free copy, download the US version, or download the new app for Apple or Android devices.