An impressive cover letter is a key component of a successful job application. While your resume may detail your past job experiences and all the skills and knowledge you’ve accrued along the way, your cover letter is your chance to persuade a prospective employer why they should interview for you the role in question.

It’s important to understand the purpose of a cover letter in order to write an effective one. Moreover, there are some essential tips you should follow when crafting a cover letter, such as what kind of things you should absolutely avoid. Your cover letter is your introduction to a prospective employer, so you want to make a good first impression.

The Purpose of a Cover Letter

When writing a cover letter, you want to keep in mind what purpose it serves. The aim of a cover letter is to introduce yourself in a compelling way (compelling enough that whoever is reading it will be eager to read your resume). You also want to underscore your interest in the company and the vacancy.

Make It Look Professional

It’s important to take the time to make sure your cover letter looks as professional as possible. There are tons of free high-quality cover letter templates you can download. Use a professional cover letter header and follow the format of formal business letters. This means including information such as:

  • Your name
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address
  • The date
  • The name of the company to which you’re applying

Additional information to add in the header that can benefit your application include:

  1. Your professional title
  2.  Links to your professional websites (e.g. portfolio and blog)
  3. Your social media accounts (stick to LinkedIn and Twitter)

Including the Proper Salutation

You should always address your cover letter to the person who will be reading it, which is most likely the hiring manager. If the name of the hiring manager isn’t listed on the job vacancy, do your best to find it. Take a look at the team section on the company’s website or do a quick Google search. Once you find out their name, write the salutation as “Dear [first name}”. While this may sound informal, it will grab the hiring manager’s attention.

Scientific research shows that when we hear or see our name, it really grabs our attention. Addressing the hiring manager by the first name will make them feel that the application has been specifically tailored to them. Alternatively, another example of a professional greeting would be “Dear Miss/Ms./Mrs/Mr. [last name]”. However, if you are unable to find out the hiring manager’s name, it’s perfectly acceptable to open with “Dear Hiring Manager”.

Structuring Your Cover Letter

Your cover letter should be short and to the point. Hiring managers usually have a big influx of job applications to contend with, so if you send a cover letter that is hundreds of words longer than the others, then there is the possibility that the hiring manager won’t even read it. The ideal cover letter length is around 300 words, so keep it concise.

When it comes to structuring the cover letter, it’s useful to break it up into three main paragraphs. The first paragraph is critically important. It has to grab the hiring manager’s attention and convince them to keep reading. If your first paragraph is weak, then you run the risk of losing the hiring manager’s interest. There are different ways to write your first paragraph. You could focus on your enthusiasm about the company, role, or industry, your greatest achievements, or how you can meet the prospective employer’s needs.

The second paragraph should emphasize what you have to offer the company, such as your wealth of experience, unique insight, and knowledge about the industry, and your skillset. The third paragraph is your chance to explain to the prospective employer why you’d be a good fit for the company and the role. This might involve describing how your values, interests, and long-term goals fit in with those of the company or how you would mesh well with the company culture. The hiring manager wants to get a sense of whether you would fit in with the rest of the team.

Ending a Cover Letter the Right Way

When closing a cover letter, avoid giving the impression that you’re needy. Point out what you can offer, rather than how much you want the job. Also, avoid cliché phrases like “Thank you for taking the time to consider my application”, as this makes it seem you’ve just researched stock phrases to use. End by noting that you welcome the opportunity to discuss the company’s goals and the ways in which you can help meet their objectives. When closing a cover letter, keep it formal, using sign-offs like “Sincerely”, “Best regards”, “With best regards”, or “Kind regards”.

Customize Each Cover Letter

While it saves time to have a cover letter template saved and make minor changes to it for each application, this isn’t generally the most effective way to get hired. By customizing each letter, you will make yourself stand out (after all, many applicants use saved templates and simply change details on the cover letter such as company name and the position). Customizing cover letters can be tedious. But the effort is worth it. It will show the hiring manager that you have taken the time to express your interest in the role and company.

Edit Your Cover Letter

There’s nothing worse than writing a great cover letter, sending it off, then realizing you have made some spelling or grammatical mistakes. This is especially detrimental when you’re applying for roles in which meticulous writing is required. A useful free tool for checking your spelling and grammar is Grammarly. In addition, read over your cover letter several times before sending it to ensure that you’ve worded everything simply and smoothly. You can use the Hemingway App as a way to improve the readability of your cover letter.

By following the above recommendations, you can write a professional cover letter that will stand out and maximize your chances of being taken to the next step of the application process. Indeed, paying close attention to your cover letter could be the difference between landing your dream job and letting it slip by.