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5 Must-Haves for an Effective Cover Letter

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When it comes to the job search, there’s often one factor that determines whether you do or don’t move on to the next step in the hiring process: a good cover letter. Rather than using the same cover letter over and over, tailoring a letter for each company and position you’re applying for can make all the difference in persuading an employer to invite you to interview.

Here are 5 must-haves for a cover letter that will help you land that interview:

1. Address it to a Person – Ensure your cover letter stands out from the applicant pool by addressing it to a specific individual in the company. Starting a cover letter with “To Whom it May Concern,” can often dissuade hiring managers from considering applicants, as it can appear less personal. It can also look as if you haven’t done your homework. Often a simple Google, LinkedIn, company website search, or email/phone call to the company can help you determine the right point of contact for addressing your letter.

If, after researching, you’re unable to find a name, try using, “Dear Hiring Team.”

2. Incorporate a Strong Opening Statement – Much like a news story, your opening statement in a cover letter should draw your readers in and make them want to know more. Don’t begin your letter by stating what the company already knows, such as the fact you’re applying for a job. Instead, focus on selling yourself and why you’re interested in working for the company. Or, talk about what impresses you about the company, or any personal connections you may have to the work.

For example, if you are applying to a company that sells products that you use, mention that. If you’re impressed by what you’ve seen in the news about them, share that in your letter. 

3. Focus on your Relevant Experience – Your cover letter is the place to fill in gaps and elaborate on information outlined in your resume. It’s particularly important to use your cover letter to address how your experience aligns with the duties listed in the job description. This includes incorporating specific words and phrases from the job description.

For example, if a position requires project management experience, share an example of how you have either managed a project or exercised the skills needed to do so in your previous work or educational experiences. If it requires knowledge of a specific software or equipment, explain your familiarity with these or similar systems. In general, don’t make this section read like a list; rather, provide a few highlights based on your strengths in specific areas.

4. Display Personality & Passion – Once again, your cover letter serves as a tool for an employer to get to know you in hopes they will extend an invitation to interview. This means going beyond the facts listed in your resume to display a bit of personality. It can also be a tool to express your passion for the organization’s work.

It’s important in your letter to base your tone on both the position you’re applying for and the company’s culture. If applying for a legal position at a high-powered law firm, you should likely err on the side of formality in your cover letter writing. If you’re applying for a position at a graphic design firm whose clients are comprised of small businesses and local non-profits, perhaps use a more conversational tone.

Ultimately, research remains critical. Determine the culture and personality of the company and align your tone accordingly.

5. Disclose Your Disability, if it’s Relevant – Today, many employers have hiring goals and recruitment initiatives designed to increase their number of employees with disabilities. As companies continue to recognize the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, they’re doing targeted outreach to reach job seekers with disabilities. Thus, if a job posting specifically encourages people with disabilities to apply, feel free to discuss your disability in the cover letter. While not a requirement, in cases like these, disclosing a disability can be an advantage.

When choosing to disclose a disability in a cover letter, ground the letter in your ability to perform the job functions well. Focus on how your disability can be an asset to the employer, rather than how it could potentially prevent you from meeting the job requirements. Save any requests for accommodations or other needs until time to confirm your interview.

Crafting your cover letter with these must-haves can greatly influence your potential to get in front of hiring managers for an interview. For more guidance on how to write an effective cover letter, contact the CareerCircle team.

Contributions to this blog were made by Andraéa LaVant of Solutions Marketing Group.