We’ve talked a lot about goals over the past few months with a heavy emphasis on budgeting, savings, and debt payoff. Often, though, what comes from making goals is a recognition that something must change, and for many, that something is their job. Perhaps you aren’t making enough money to make your goals possible, or possibly you’ve just realized that your goal is to spend more time with your family long-term, and you aren’t able to do that in your current position.
Whatever the reason for the new job hunt, getting an interview is the first step in the process, and, with all of the competition out there, it doesn’t come easy. Creating an outstanding cover letter will put your application at the top of the list to call for an interview.
Tip: Grab my FREE Cover Letter template HERE.
Design of the Letter
Personally, I believe a cover letter should be a professional letter. It should be printed on white paper and, if sent electronically, should be saved in PDF form. Don’t ever send an editable Word document to a hiring manager. That will be their first clue that you aren’t the right candidate.
Start with a Microsoft Word (or Pages) document. Add your name, street address, phone number, and email to the top of the page. You can choose to center yours, as mine is, or you can align it to the left side of the page. Either way, it’s up to you.
Choose a basic font. Times New Roman, Cambria, and Calibri are all great options. Once again, this should be professional, so don’t use scripted fonts.
Determine who you will be addressing the letter to. If you have time, I always recommend determining who the human resource contact is. If you know the name, address him or her as Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith. If you don’t know the name of the person, stick with To Whom it May Concern.
The first few lines of your letter are meant to grab the hiring manager’s attention and make him or her want to keep reading. Start by detailing what position you are applying for. It could be that specific person is interviewing for multiple positions. Don’t leave him/her guessing which position you desire.
In one sentence, address why you believe you are a viable candidate for the position. I typically mention my education and experience in related jobs, however, you can do this however you prefer. Remember, try to keep it to one sentence – you want to grab the attention of your reader, not bore them with the details.
Most people struggle with the qualifications portion of the cover letter. It’s critical to helping the hiring manager know why he or she should look past the cover letter to your resume. Keep in mind that your cover letter is not your resume, that comes next, but rather a quick summary of how your skills line up with the requirements put forth by the company.
The simplest way to do this is to copy the qualifications from the advertisement, but I highly recommend giving a more personal touch. You want that hiring manager to know that not only do you meet the requirement of typing 60+ words per minute accurately, but you average around 80 words per minute accurately. Additionally, employment hinges on knowing how to use Microsoft Word and Excel, but you are also proficient in Outlook, PowerPoint, and Publisher, add those in as well. These tidbits of information will have the potential to set you apart from the rest of the applicants in that large pile.
You can choose to write your qualifications in paragraph form, however, that requires the hiring manager to read the entire thing. If I have a stack of applications on my desk, I’m likely to skim through them. It’s much easier to skim a list of bulleted points and pick the details I’m looking for than it is to skim a paragraph. In my example, I don’t even use complete sentences. It’s short and yet, gives the reader a comprehensive view of who I am as a potential employee.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose how to write this section.
The conclusion, because all good things must come to an end. You’ve put all that effort into making sure your introduction and qualifications are perfectly worded. It’s time to finish strong.
I always try to keep my concluding paragraph to the bare minimum. I start it off by thanking the reader for considering me and mention that I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss not only my qualifications but my excitement for the position. Excitement is key. If you don’t feel excited about the prospective job, that hiring manager will know it! Be excited!
I also make sure to include easy ways to get in contact with me. Don’t ask a prospective employer to text you – provide a good daytime phone number for you and an email address.
Sign the Letter
The easiest part of this whole process should be closing the letter, but it’s amazing how often this gets messed up. Keep it simple with your closing: Sincerely, Regards, Yours Truly, and Yours Sincerely are all professional options. Personally, I choose to stick with Sincerely.
Add your name typed, with enough room between Sincerely and your name to allow for your signature. Unless the cover letter is going out in email form, it should be printed, signed, and scanned in for uploading purposes. The signature reflects the time you took with this specific letter. Make sure it’s signed.
Your Cover Letter Will Fail If…
…you include jokes or professionally inappropriate language.
…you don’t personalize the letter for each individual job you apply for. Don’t forget to edit the contact name, position title, and qualifications.
…you have grammatical or spelling errors. Check and recheck. Ask a friend to look it over. You’d hate to be thrown out of the running because of a misspelled word.
…it’s too long. Stick to the one-page rule. No one wants to read a book about your qualifications.
Sit Back and Wait
You’ve uploaded, emailed, or delivered your cover letter, resume, and application. Now the waiting game begins as you wait for the flood of job interview requests to come through. Don’t just sit there – continue to look for additional jobs to apply for and practice your typing or other tech-related skills as necessary, you never know what will come in handy down the line.
In the meantime, happy job hunting!
Tip: Don’t forget to grab the FREE Cover Letter Template HERE.