How to Write a Cover Letter That Wins Jobs And When to Use It

While you have worked hard and crushed your resume, sometimes it isn’t enough to land that dream job. During your job search, it is important to know how to write a cover letter and when it’s necessary to do so.

Here is a list of steps to help you nail your next cover letter.

What Is a Cover Letter? 

To put it simply, a cover letter is a one-page document that you submit with job applications. It says more about yourself in your prose and gives the employer or staffing agency more insight into you as a candidate. 

A resume gives an overview of your work experience and skills, but a cover letter gives the details of why you’re a good choice for this specific job. 

When to Use a Cover Letter?

Firstly, let’s get this out of the way. Cover letters are on their way out.

While job boards and temp agencies like Indeed allow you to upload a cover letter for each job listing, the number of job postings requiring them is dwindling. Theoretically, your resume should say enough about you to move on to the interviewing process.

If an employer receives over 100 applications, that means over 100 letters to read. They can be overbearing and often cast aside.

Have no fear, cover letters are still useful in their own way. If you want the job, why not take the time to write to the employer? Even if they do not read it, it still shows initiative.

Many job seekers ask if cover letters are necessary and when to use them. Most job posts may not consider them necessary, but there is no reason to avoid them. Include a cover letter in every application unless the listing specifically says not to.

1. Cover Letter Format

Firstly, pick an easy-to-read template for your cover letter. Most word processors have a cover letter template available. But if not, use a basic letter format.

Secondly, make sure to include your contact information and your professional title at the top of the page. You want the employer to know how to contact you and what your position is immediately.

Thirdly, make it attractive and professional. Stick with default fonts and colors. These are not art projects but a way to explain yourself. Keep the creativity to the writing itself.

Here is an example of a basic cover letter.

2. Length Is Key

As stated, your cover letter may only be glanced at. An employer probably feels overwhelmed by the number of cover letters, let alone the length of each one. Therefore, keep it simple.

Be precise and to the point. A cover letter should be no more than one page. On average, your cover letter should be between 300 and 400 words.

Think of it like a five-paragraph essay outline from grade school. An introductory paragraph, three bodies and a conclusion.

3. Write Your Cover Letter With a Format

Let’s be honest, not all of us are writers. If you’re applying for a job that doesn’t require any writing skills, coming up with a well-thought cover letter may be extra work.

Therefore, let’s refer back to the essay outline analogy to help make the task easier. There’s a reason we were required to do it in school, anyway.

Here’s a guideline on each paragraph:

  • Greet the hiring manager.
  • First paragraph – Write a few sentences about yourself. What are your biggest achievements? What is your professional history? What is your professional title?
  • Second paragraph – Explain why you’re the perfect fit for this specific job.
  • Third paragraph – Explain how you fit into the company and why you were drawn to their job posting. 
  • Fourth paragraph – Closeout by thanking the hiring manager for their time and reminding them that you’re extremely interested in this position.

4. Do Your Research Before You Write

how to write a cover letter - research
Take the time to see what type of employee the company is looking for.

Before you write your cover letter, take the time to look over the job description and any information you can find on the business. Knowing the specifics about the company can help you tailor your cover letter to better speak to them.

By looking at the job description and their website, you can see exactly what type of candidate they’re looking for. Then, you can let them know how you fit into that role and how your talents apply.

This research is not only a matter of what qualifications they’re looking for but the type of business they are, too. Try and get a sense of what tone to use in your letter.

If the company’s online presence is laid-back and creative, feel free to sprinkle a little wit into your cover letter. If they are serious, pull back on the lightheartedness and keep things business-minded.

It is all a matter of judgment on how to sell yourself. No one goes into a negotiation without knowing what the other party wants. This letter is a chance to appeal to them not only through your professional background but also your personality.

5. Brag About Yourself

Don’t be afraid to be a bit braggadocious. Be proud of your accomplishments and your skills.

Employers want to see a candidate that is confident in their abilities. Let them know that you are professional and dedicated.

Of course, this should be in moderation. Too much bravado can be off-putting. Be humble but sturdy.

6. Speak of the Future

Continuing with your stark confidence, write about the job in the future tense. This wording may seem a bit much, but it only further portrays your excitement for the job.

For example, say things like, “In this new role, I will,” instead of “If I get this new role, I will.”

Subtle psychological differences like these show that you are serious. You’re already thinking about the job and what it will entail.

Furthermore, this also plays into your closing statement. Leave the letter with a call to action for the hiring manager. Let them know that you want them to reach out to you.

For example, close your letter with a phrase like, “I am looking forward to discussing this with you,” or “I look forward to speaking with you soon.”

Once again, this plays into your confidence. You’re selling yourself to the company. Be strong-willed and sure. Write a cover letter to let the company know why you’re the perfect fit for the position and how those items on your resume play into the role.

You are an extraordinary candidate, and you need to let them know that.