How To Make Your Cover Letter Shine

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Your cover letter is extremely important in the job search process and carries a lot more weight than you might think. Though it might be frustrating to spend even more time on applications than you already are, cover letters still do get read by a lot of hiring managers, so yes, they matter. The amount of time and effort you spend on personalizing your cover letter to the specific job and showcasing the right skills and experiences within it is crucial to your success in the job hunt.

How to make your cover letter shine

To begin, use a template for inspiration. You should not copy these word for word, but you can find some great templates that break down the best formats and structure here.

Write a unique cover letter for each job

Personalizing your cover letter to the specific job and showcasing the right skills and experiences within it is key to your success.

The most important takeaway from this article is submitting a fresh and specific cover letter for each position you apply to.

Personalize it

Rather than opening with a traditional “To Whom It May Concern,” a little personalization goes a long way. When you’re addressing the letter, include the hiring manager’s name if you can. Otherwise, address the letter with “Dear (Job Title) Search Committee”.

Take your resume one step further

A common mistake people make is regurgitating their resume. The cover letter is an opportunity for the employer to get to know you beyond your resume. If there is relevant experience or information that you cut from your resume, then here is a great opportunity to incorporate it. Another option is to show the hiring committee you have done your research by incorporating company-specific information.

Use the job description to highlight your experiences

Specifically, highlight experiences that prove you are the best candidate for the position. Emphasize your accomplishments and experiences that align with the job description to leave no doubt in the hiring committees’ minds that their search is over and they should bring you onto their team.

Short and sweet is best

Your cover letter should not be more than one page. I recommend you try and keep it to three or four paragraphs maximum (an intro, one or two body paragraphs, and a strong conclusion).

Proofread, proofread, proofread

Review and proofread your cover letter multiple times before submitting it. Especially with current technology, there is no excuse for spelling and/or grammatical errors. If this isn’t your forte, download Grammarly to help.

You have all the resources you need to create an all-star cover letter! But in order to stand out from the competition and secure the interview, significant time and effort are required. Do your research, take it one step at a time, ask for help, and get ready to rock those interviews!

Skip to Actionable Steps




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Longer Version


Est. Reading Time: 4 Minutes

How to make your cover letter shine

Whether you are applying for your first job post-college, your dream job, or an “I am desperate and will take anything, please someone just hire me” kind of job, you will need a cover letter. And not just any cover letter – an impressive, to the point one, that shows the employer that the search is over and you are the perfect person for the position.

If you’d like, you can use a template to help get you started. You should not copy these word for word, but you can find some great templates that explain formats and structure here (this resource even breaks down samples according to specific occupations). Remember, this is just the skeleton!

Write a unique cover letter for each job

I understand you are likely applying to multiple jobs (as you should), but don’t use this as an excuse to not take the time to individualize your cover letter. Personalizing your cover letter to the specific job and showcasing the right skills and experiences within it is crucial to your success. Don’t worry, you don’t need to start from scratch every time. You can certainly recycle some sentences.

Personalize it

Rather than opening your cover letter with a traditional “To Whom It May Concern,” a little personalization goes a long way. When you’re addressing the letter, include the hiring manager’s name if you can, and check that you use the appropriate title when addressing him or her. Otherwise, address the letter with “Dear (Job Title) Search Committee.” In the opening sentence, mention the specific role/job you are applying for, as well as the company. Here is an example:

Dear Academic Advisor Search Committee,

            I am enthusiastic to submit my application for the Academic Advisor position at ABC University.

This shows the employer that you are not simply mass sending this letter to every job in town.

Take your resume one step further

A common mistake people make is simply regurgitating their resume all over again. This is not the purpose of a cover letter! Take advantage of the opportunity to show some personality in a professional way. If there is relevant experience or information that you had to cut from your resume, then here is a great opportunity to incorporate it. Another option is to show the hiring committee that you have done your research by incorporating company-specific information. For example, you can mention the company’s mission and vision statements and explain how your values align with theirs, or how you are extremely impressed with the company’s new website, etc.

The cover letter is an opportunity for the employer to get to know you beyond your resume.

Use the job description to highlight your experiences

This makes ALL the difference between a generic cover letter you are sending out to the masses and one which is personalized and job-specific. Highlight the experiences and skills that prove you are the best candidate for the position. Emphasize your accomplishments and experiences that align with the job description to leave no doubt in the hiring committees’ minds that their search is over and should bring you onto their team.

This is easier than it sounds. All of the information you need is right there in the job description. Follow these steps to properly highlight your skills in relation to the job description:

  1. Have a copy of your resume and the job description handy before you start writing your cover letter.
  2. Study the job description and compare it to your resume. Take notes on the areas of the position where you feel your skills and experience are most applicable.
  3. Connect the dots between the job description and your highlighted skills and experience.
  4. Transform those skills and experiences from your resume to your cover letter. Voila!

By highlighting your accomplishments and experience relevant to the job you’re applying for and showing them how they align with the position, it eliminates guesswork and will be a no-brainer for the hiring manager to contact you for an interview.

Short and sweet is best

Your cover letter should not be more than one page. I recommend you try and keep it to three or four paragraphs maximum (an intro, one or two body paragraphs, and a strong conclusion).

Proofread, proofread, proofread

Review and proofread your cover letter multiple times before submitting it. Especially with current technology, there is no excuse for spelling and/or grammatical errors. Sometimes a simple oversight like this can cost you the job – don’t let it! These things are completely avoidable just by taking your time. After you have proofread it yourself, ask others to take a look as well. Ask your coaches in the field, friends, and family to take a look at it just for some extra pairs of eyes.

To sum it all up…

You have all the resources you need to create an all-star cover letter! But in order to stand out from the competition and secure the interview, significant time and effort are required. Do your research, take it one step at a time, ask for help, and get ready to rock those interviews!

Actionable Steps


1

Take it one step at a time

Though it can be overwhelming to tackle this area of the job hunt, the most important thing in writing your cover letter is to be patient and take the time necessary to get it to an all-star level.

2

Be willing to put in the effort

Your cover letter is crucial to the application process and takes time and effort to create. A one-size-fits-all approach is not necessarily going to get you the interview, so tailor each cover letter to every position you apply to by using the job description. The most important takeaway from this article is submitting a fresh and specific cover letter for each position you apply to.

3

Do some research

Look up cover letter templates and samples, research the company in advance, and study the job description so your cover letter can convince the employer that you are a perfect fit for the position.

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About the Author


Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Alyssa holds an Ed. D. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. For the last 7 years, she has coached hundreds of college students on how to be successful academically and in prepping for a job.
Full Bio | LinkedIn


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