13 Tips for Crafting Killer Cover Letters

Crafting killer cover letters is one of the greatest challenges job searchers face. Too many cover letters miss the mark by failing to focus on the critical key words. The worst ones, by far, are the ones that go on and on. Here are 13 tips for crafting killer cover letters that hiring managers will want to read. Following these tips will help you to get that coveted interview instead of the dreaded rejection letter.

  1. Keep it SHORT.

    A great cover letter is short, direct, and succinctly states how you might help the employer, not vice versa. Employers skim cover letters for 7 to 10 seconds so you need to quickly get to the point. Eliminate any words that do not add value. Mark Twain famously said “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” Editing is key.

  2. Address it to a real person.

    There are a number of ways to find an actual person to whom to address your cover letter. My favorite tip is to use LinkedIn. Search the company and the terms “human resources” and “recruiter” or “talent acquisition” and the location where you are applying. More often than not, this will produce the name of a person to whom you can address your letter.

  3. State why you are writing.

    The right answer is that you are applying for the job. Please don’t start with “my name is”. It’s in your email address and on your resume and in your signature. In short, it’s unnecessary.

  4. “Name drop” an inside contact.

    Be sure to ask your contact first if it’s okay to do so. Many companies offer referral bonuses to employees whose referrals lead to a hire. It’s a potential win-win for both you and your friend. You land a job, and they get some bonus cash.

  5. Say WHY you want to work there.

    Include a detail or two from the research you did on the company. Mention a fact that made you absolutely certain that this is the company where you want to start your career. Everyone likes to believe that they are your first choice.

  6. Make it readable.

    Both digitally and in print. There is a good chance that the hiring manager will get a printed copy of your cover letter, so the font size should be 11 point at a minimum. If it doesn’t fit on one page at 11-point font, it’s a sign that it needs editing.

  7. Highlight two or three talents.

    Use key experiences to demonstrate that you would be a great fit for the position. Do not squeeze all the experience from your resume into your cover letter. That’s what your resume is for.

  8. Get creative.

    Consider an alternative to the dry, rote cover letter, especially if you are interested in a creative role. A client of mine used the company’s app to spell out “Hire Me!” He took a screen shot and included it at the top of his cover letter. It impressed the recruiter so much he got the interview.

  9. Know the key words.

    TagCrowd and Wordle allow you to copy a job description to create a bubble diagram highlighting the key words and their relative importance. Or go “old school” and take a highlighter to the job description.

  10. Then use them!

    Many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen resumes and cover letters for key word matches. An ATS turns your application into a numeric score. Too few key word matches and you won’t make the cut. Be sure to focus on the most important key words in your cover letter to help your odds of getting through the ATS.

  11. Match your experience to the role.

    Demonstrate that you have the skills needed to hit the ground running. Focus on how you can help the employer solve a need that they have, the one the job is designed to fill.

  12. Never lie or exaggerate.

    Lying will catch up with you and is a sure fire way to lose the job you lied to get. Trustworthiness and credibility are critical character traits. A good reputation is hard to attain so don’t blow it before you’ve started your career.

  13. PROOF READ. Use spell check but don’t rely on it to do all the work for you. Here’s how spell check can cause your downfall. Enlist a friend to help too. Four eyeballs are better than two.

Leverage these 13 tips and you’ll soon be crafting killer cover letters that recruiters will want to read. Combined with a stellar resume, a well-written cover letter can help you score the all-important interview that hopefully will lead to a job offer. And after all, isn’t that your goal?


About Lisa

Chief Career Catalyst @C2C, former Fortune 500 businesswoman, dog lover, avid skier, mediocre tennis player, golfer, new SUPer, aspiring surfer, cyclist, yoga & exercise enthusiast, happy wife & home chef. I am a regular contributor to the Bangor Daily News, and have appeared on WCSH6 where I offer career advice for college students, recent graduates and young professionals.
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