Cover letters are crucial. So, why is it that almost every recruiter that we spoke to groaned and sighed when we asked about cover letters?Interestingly enough, chatting with recruiters gave us an answer: a lot of candidates don’t put much effort into professional cover letters. If you conduct a quick internet search, you’ll see that the online world is conflicted about the value of cover letters.
For example, a 2012 survey conducted by a staffing service firm called OfficeTeam found that cover letters are valuable. Just three years later, a survey done by a different organization deemed them unimportant.
But wait! A 2017 Forbes article argued that cover letters are still valuable.
Did the internet get amnesia? No. So, why are there so many conflicting ideas about professional cover letters? After we did a little digging, we learned that the answer was more surprising then we could have imagined.
How to Write a Professional (and Necessary) Cover Letter
Author and career coach Roger Wright argued in a 2017 Huffington Post article that the value of professional cover letter lies in your approach. A personalized cover letter will help you get ahead. But a general cover letter won’t make a considerable difference.
With that in mind, we talked to two experienced recruiters to learn why. We created a list of professional cover letter writing tips based on their responses below.
1.Personalize every cover letter
Seasoned recruiter Rose Dougherty strongly dislikes generic cover letters.
“The attention to detail is important,” she explained. “I’ve received lots of cover letters that were sent to many companies, but were not made for us.”
While you may feel tempted to write a one-size-fits-all cover letter that boasts about your accomplishments, it’s much wiser to craft a personalized letter for each job.
Don’t have time to create a letter from scratch for every application? That’s okay. Instead, begin by writing a cover letter outline Next, read each job post carefully. Make changes to your outline based on the position’s requirements and the overall tone of the organization. Share relevant skills, address the job description directly, and do your best to capture the voice of the company.
And just like that, you can create personalized, professional cover letters easily!Lastly, never start a professional cover letter with an outdated salutation. Say goodbye to “To Whom it May Concern” and “Dear Sir or Madam.” Instead, study the company’s LinkedIn page to learn the name of the hiring manager. If you can’t find it, then write a salutation that addresses the position and company, like so: “To the Banana Republic Marketing Associate Hiring Manager.”
2.Start with a winning opening line
Catch your reader’s attention with a strong opening line that encourages them to keep reading. Recruiter Monica Garcia stressed the value of a “catchy but professional! opening line.”
Unless your industry demands formality, avoid openers like “I am writing to apply to the sales associate position.” The subject of your email should cover your intention, so it’s not necessary to tell the employer which job you want. This opening line is boring and redundant. Take it up a notch! Try an opening line that tells a story. You can do this by sharing your enthusiasm for the company, or revealing a fact about your professional self that makes you a good candidate. See the examples below.
“I was ecstatic to learn that Price & Price needs a new software developer. You probably have seen a lot of applicants who say that they’re big fans of your games, but I am your biggest. I bought Battle for Oxen when I was 13 with my babysitting money. I’ve been hooked ever since. I know your products inside and out. The first lemonade stand that I ran raised $150. I was eight years old. Since then, I’ve strived to beat every sales goal. It would be an honor to surpass my next sales goals at Hart Technologies.
3.Quantify your achievements
You’ve done a lot of great things, but what evidence can you use to prove it? You can’t just say that you’re good at your job. “Be specific,” Monica says, “the best way to do this is to use metrics.”
This means that you should add numbers to your claims. If you work in sales, then note how much you sold. If you managed people, then share the size of your team. Even if you made drinks, see if you can guess how many you made in a given period of time.
4.Get personal, if necessary
Look at your resume. Now, imagine that you are a recruiter. What questions would you have regarding your own resume? Use your professional cover letter as an opportunity to address these issues.
>For Rose, a big concern is a candidate’s relocation plans.
“You should include your relocation plans in your professional cover letter,” she explained. “If you live in the Midwest, then why are you applying for a job on the West Coast? Are you moving because of your family? Just looking for work? If you don’t explain, then confusion may arise. We don’t have remote roles, so I can’t accept candidates who live far away and don’t want to relocate. If they just want to live in San Francisco and don’t discuss how their qualifications make them right for this specific job, then that’s not good either.”
Another concern is employment gaps. As Jenny Foss of JobJenny explained in a Muse article, it’s smart to explain your employment gap in your professional cover letter. Try to do it in a way that argues that you’re the best person for the job. First, touch on the reason why you have an employment gap. Next, explain how your experience out of the workforce heightened your skill set. Finally, tie it back to the job that you want.
5.Draw attention to transferable skills
According to Monica, it’s important to â€œdraw attention to transferable skillsâ€ in your professional cover letter as well. This is especially important for entry-level workers and candidates who are pursuing a new career field. In fact, another 2017 Forbes article emphasized the importance of transferable skills. The piece claims that recruiters and employers seek applicants with a solid foundation of these so-called soft skills.Even if you’re not an entry-level candidate, consider revealing your transferable skills in your professional cover letter. It’s easy to mention this while you explain technical skills. See the example below.
Thanks to my talent for focusing, I caught the error in the algorithm and fixed it. That simple fix alone increased the company’s revenue by 5%.
The secret to an impressive cover letter: make the most of this document by personalizing it and tailoring it to the job that you want. At the end of the day, your cover letter is what you make of it. How can you make the most of your newfound professional cover letter writing skills? Try our easy-to-use cover letter builder to create your own stellar document.