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Do you want to increase your chances of landing that dream interview?  Is there a way that you can substantially increase your chances of having a recruiter or hiring manager review your resume?

The answer is emphatically yes, there is a way to increase your chances of landing a dream interview and increase your chances of having your resume read.  The secret is to have a stellar, kickass cover letter.

Below, we’re going to discuss the following:

  • What is a cover letter?
  • Do you need a cover letter?
  • What are the different types of cover letters?
  • What to include in a cover letter?
  • What not to include in a cover letter?
  • How to customize your cover letter?
  • Cover letter guidelines and format

There’s a lot of information, but it is well worth it to land that dream job!

What is a cover letter?

In a competitive job market, every piece of additional or supporting documentation that you can provide will help give you leverage over other candidates.  Too often, candidates forgo submitting a cover letter alongside their resume.  This does a disservice to the applicant and can hinder their application and interview process.  The purpose of a cover letter is to accompany and expand upon the experiences and education on your resume.

A resume without a cover letter simply does not suffice to show the full depth, character, and profile of the applicant.  As resumes are generally one-page in length, with bulleted out points indicating specific achievements, it is oftentimes difficult for recruiters or hiring managers to understand the personality of the applicant.

A cover letter serves as an introduction to the resume.  It provides recruiters and hiring managers with a baseline of the applicant and their specific achievements and career goals.  When applying to open positions, no application is truly complete unless both a resume and cover letter are submitted.

Within the body of a cover letter, you will want to introduce yourself to the organization you are applying and demonstrate your interest.  The cover letter is meant to draw the reader’s attention to specific points and accomplishments within the resume.  It is also meant to be utilized as a sales tool, nudging the reader to consider your credentials and offer an interview.

Oftentimes, recruiters and hiring managers will read an applicant’s cover letter before reviewing their resume.  As-such, it is better to ensure that your cover letter is less than one-page in length, neat, concise, and written in a manner which entices the reader to consider your credentials and accomplishments.

Do I need to include a cover letter?

Yes.

Yes, you need to include a cover letter in every application you send.  Unless the job posting specifically states not to include a cover letter, then you should absolutely include one on every application you send out.

Cover letters help you stand out from the crowd.  They are your personal pitch to the recruiter and hiring manager on why you should be invited for an interview and why you are the only candidate truly capable and qualified for the position.

With recruiters taking a mere 6-seconds to review a candidates resume, you need to utilize every available avenue and resource to increase your chances.  The single greatest method available to you is to include a complete, comprehensive, and customized cover letter with every resume submitted.

By including a cover letter, not only are you making a sales pitch to your qualifications, but you are also showing the recruiter and hiring manager that you are serious and committed to the role.  By including a cover letter, you show that not only do you want the position, but that you also understand and are qualified for it.

By including a cover letter on every resume submission, you increase your chances at landing an interview, simply based on the fact that most applicants aren’t including cover letters.  In order to stand out from the field of candidates, you need to include or utilize a tool that not everyone is using.  A cover letter is a great way to do that.

The different types of cover letters

While there are a slew of use cases for writing a cover letter, there are generally three main types.  These types will cover most use cases and scenarios in which a cover letter is needed.  If you don’t see your specific use case presented below, feel free to customize one of the types below.

Application Letter

The cover letter is specifically for current job openings or positions.  It is meant to be used for when you apply to a position that is posted on a company’s website or a job board or forum.  This is the most common type of cover letter that you will encounter and write-up.

Prospecting Letter

The prospecting cover letter is meant to be used when you are inquiring about a possible position within a company.  The purpose of the prospecting letter is to inquire from the hiring manager or recruiter whether or not a position related to a certain skillset is available or will become available.

Networking Letter

The networking cover letter is perhaps the least used one.  It is meant to be a reach out to a specific individual for assistance in your job search and in expanding your overall network of contacts.  The networking cover letter is useful when you feel you need additional assistance in your job search and would like to network with an expert in the field.

Old book opened

What to include in your cover letter?

Your cover letter is typically the first point of contact with the company you are applying to.  This is the written introduction between you and the recruiter or hiring manager, so it is imperative that you make a good impression.  You should review and proofread your cover letter multiple times, ensuring correct grammar and punctuation.  Additionally, scan your cover letter and confirm that there are no errors or typos which could knock-off your chances at landing an interview.

In-addition, you should ensure that your cover letter is properly addressed.  You don’t want to send a cover letter meant for another company, which could immediately disqualify you from the position.

Lastly, make sure you add in some personality on your cover letter.  As compared to your resume, cover letters are a bit more flexible.  You should show enthusiasm and have an upbeat attitude.  You also want to come off as knowledgeable and an expert on the industry and job role you’re applying for.

The most effective cover letters take keywords used in the job description to qualify themselves as experts in those requirements.  What this means is that you should take some keywords from the job description and incorporate them into your cover letter.  This will show that you are both familiar and well-versed with the requirements and needs of the role.

In addition, you want your cover letter to convey that you understand the role and what will be expected of the candidate.  “Speak the language” of the interviewer by including industry specific details.

You also want to show a definitive why in your cover letter.  Why are you applying to the position?  What really interests you in the position and the company?  You are trying to sell yourself to the recruiter and hiring manager, so tell them in direct terms why you are excited about the position and why you want to work for the company.  Don’t be dry or uninspiring, you should let your own passion and personality speak in the cover letter.

What not to include in your cover letter

While your cover letter should show your personality and passion for the position you are applying to, you don’t want to include any personal information beyond what’s necessary.  The necessary information is your name, your current home address, your email address, and your personal phone number.

You should not include your current salary or any salary expectations.  You should only discuss salary once an offer letter has been made or is about to be made.  Similarly, don’t discuss the details of the position or your expectations of the work for the role.  Questions concerning the role of the work, the company culture, paid-time-off or work from home opportunities should be discussed at a later date.

In addition, you should not discuss qualifications or requirements that you do not have.  Rather than point out what skills and requirements you don’t have, discuss the requirements of the position that you do have.

Keep your cover letter brief, concise, and to the point.  It should be a reflection of your current skills and capabilities and your desire to work at the company.  Anything additional that does not add value should be removed.  In addition, your cover letter should be one page or less in length.

How to customize your cover letter?

The most important thing about a cover letter is that it should be customized to the position you are applying for.  It should be specific for each role you apply to and be updated before sending an application.

You want to customize your cover letter to be explicitly specific to the role you are applying to.  Update the role to the one you are applying to and write to the reasons why you want to work for the specific company you are applying to.  You should also mention how you heard about the position and whether or not you were referred by a current or former employee.

Lastly, be specific in why you are qualified for the position.  Speak to the skills you have and how those skills will translate to a successful onboarding and completion of the job’s roles and responsibilities.  You want to let the employer know why you are a qualified candidate and how your specific skills can elevate you above the pool of candidates.

How Should A Cover Letter Be Formatted?

Understanding that the purpose of a cover letter is to entice the reader to consider your qualifications is the utmost importance.  Understanding that framework, it becomes easier to format and organize the body and details of the cover letter.

The beginning of the cover letter should be used as an introduction to yourself and your interest in the organization and company.  Large, well-known companies receive dozens of resumes daily for open positions.  Culling through the list can be difficult.  However, they will be more likely to opt for the candidate that expresses direct interest and passion in their company and their company’s mission.

Following the introduction and interest in the company, you should look to “sell” the company on your qualifications.  Why should the company be interested in you?  What qualifications, skills, and achievements do you have which make you a better candidate from the rest?

Being able to coherently and concisely explain within a cover letter why you are the best candidate can significantly increase your chances of landing an in-person interview.  Rather than having the recruiter peruse and dissect dozens of resumes, you’ll have done the majority of the work for them, leaving them with no choice but to pass your application to the hiring manager.

Concluding a cover letter should be done as a call to action.  What steps should the reader take now?  How would you like to process to continue?  End your cover letter by instructing the reader on how-to reach you or your interest to schedule an in-person interview.  This call to action should be genuine and should encourage the reader to follow through.

Header

As most cover letters are submitted electronically, I prefer to have the header only include the contact information of the recruiter or hiring manager that you are addressing the letter to.  The employer’s contact information should include their first and last name, the street address, city, state, and zip-code of the company, their phone number, and their email address.

Salutation

Your cover letter should begin by addressing the individual at the company.  You should address them with the “Dr./Mr./Ms. Last Name” format.  If you’re unsure whether they are male or female, you can simple address them as “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Introduction

Your introduction should let the hiring manager know what position you are applying to, how you heard of the position and the name of the referring employee is applicable.  Briefly describe how your qualifications match that of the job description.

Body

The body of your cover letter should address why you are interested in the position and how your qualifications would make you an excellent candidate.  Utilize the keywords in the job description sparingly in your body but be sure to emphasize the qualifications you have with those keywords.

You don’t want the body of your cover letter to simply be a regurgitation of your resume.  Be sure to show actionable examples.  It is better to include specifics which show how you are a qualified and excellent candidate.

Closing

The closing paragraph of your cover letter should reiterate your qualifications and skills and how they make you an excellent candidate for the position.  End your cover letter by stating your desire to move forward in the interview process and how you would appreciate the opportunity for an interview.  End with a thank you to the hiring manager for their time and consideration.

Signature

End the cover letter with a quick, “Sincerely” and include your email signature, which should include your full name, your full address, your email address, and your personal phone number.

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