Cover letters are sometimes seen as an add-on. Job seekers tend to treat them like the potentially skippable sidekick to a resume, an annoying chore rather than a crucial component of the process. However, cover letters can become a key ingredient to job-search success — if you know how to build one effectively.
After all, a cover letter can potentially swing a hiring manager’s decision. Think of them as tie-breakers. Your resume will do most of the work in determining whether you get an interview or not. However, if the selection comes down to a set of candidates with similar qualifications and work history, a high-quality cover letter could put you over the top.
For instance, one study showed that 87% of hiring managers and recruiters read cover letters — proof that they aren’t ignored in the process. And while they don’t come into play often as part of a decision, another set of statistics indicated that 26% of recruiters considered these documents important to their hiring decisions.
So a well-crafted cover letter could make the difference in one-in-four applications you submit. To make the most of those odds, here’s what to strive for and what to avoid when building one:
How to Optimize Your Cover Letter
Cover letters give you additional space to impress a potential employer. You just want to make the most of that real estate. Here are a few tips to optimize your document:
Go Beyond Your Resume
Think of your cover letter as a complement to your resume. As such, you don’t need to list every bullet point that appears in your work history. Meanwhile, the cover letter gives you a place to expand on some of your best points, letting you give details and examples that wouldn’t fit onto your resume.
Don’t Be Afraid to Brag
This isn’t the time to stay humble. Focus on the major accomplishments you’ve accomplished during your career. By highlighting your best qualities, you show prospective employers why you would make a good hire.
Customize for Each Job
Have a standard cover letter pre-written. But for each particular job, tweak the document to suit the open position. Spotlight the parts of your background that represent the closest fit with the role the company wants to fill.
Think about Keywords
Like your resume, your cover letter might undergo a machine read before a human looks at it. As such, having the right keywords might make a big difference. Use the job description to pick out the crucial words and phrases the potential employer wants to see. Then, work those into your cover letter as best you can.
Make an Argument
Remember: you’re essentially making a sales pitch. Your cover letter should present an argument, one centered on why you make the best-possible candidate for the job. Don’t ramble or get sidetracked. Each sentence in the cover letter should help talk them into hiring you.
What to Avoid in a Cover Letter
A great cover letter can cement your chances to score an interview. However, missteps here can also kill your candidacy. With that in mind, here are a few mistakes to avoid with your cover letter:
Any Spelling/Grammar Mistakes
Sometimes, a single typo can get your prospects for a particular job canceled. Good positions come with a high level of competition. As such, make sure you get the easy stuff right. Aggressively proofread your cover letter to avoid any spelling or grammar mistakes.
Getting Too Wordy
They don’t want a literary memoir. Limit your cover letter to a few well-written paragraphs. A concise, efficient document will have more impact than something that drones on too long.
Anything Outside the Scope of the Job
Don’t wander into subjects that don’t have anything to do with the position. Mentioning politics, pop culture opinions, or current events will likely hurt your case. At best, it just wastes time. At worst, you could say something the prospective employer finds controversial.
The Wrong Tone
Make sure your tone fits the situation. Yes, you’d like to add a little personality to your cover letter. But, generally speaking, you should still stay professional and focused.
Leave your personal life out of the cover letter. A touching essay about the obstacles you’ve overcome in your life might provide a moving story. However, it’s not likely to convince hiring managers that you belong on their team. Better to focus on the value you can provide the company.
Looking to Find an Advantage in the Competitive Job Market?
A graceful, convincing cover letter can represent a vital part of any job search. In a competitive market, you need every advantage you can find. That includes partnering with the right staffing firm. A top recruiter, like Hiregy, can connect you with the perfect positions for your skills and background.
Contact Hiregy today to learn more.