How to Write an Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter

Jay Mava / Published November 12, 2019

Woman writing a cover letter on her desk

When applying for a job, is it really necessary to include a cover letter? This has been a popular debate for some time.


However, cover letters are not actually recommended these days unless otherwise specified. The reason for this is because employers will quite often skip to your resume anyway. It’s also important to keep in mind that a bad cover letter can eliminate you as a candidate.


However, if the employer insists and you do have to create one, there are some things to keep in mind for it to work in your favor. We will tell you how to write a cover letter that stands out and shows what makes you unique from the other applicants.



The Best Practices for Writing a Cover Letter


In the case that the employer does request a cover letter with your resume, they are likely looking for specifics requirements to help with the screening process. This letter can make or break things and determine if you receive a call for the position. Follow these best practices to help you get noticed.


1) Tailor Your Cover Letter to the Company


The number one thing that you want to avoid is sending out the same generic cover letter to different employers. Never use a standard cover letter template – this is very obvious to employers. It should be tailored to the specific position and company if you want to catch their attention.

If possible, address the hiring manager by name instead of saying “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whomever It May Concern.” By taking the time to address it to the person in charge of hiring, it shows that you care and makes it even more personal. Quite often you can research the company’s hiring manager by doing a quick Google search or by checking their business website. Doing this research on the company will help you in the interview process as well, so it’s best to start now.

The body of your cover letter should also speak directly to the company. Use the company’s name wherever possible. Go back into the job posting and look at the job description. How are your accomplishments and experiences relevant to the qualifications needed for the position? Be sure to talk about that in your letter to show the recruiter that you’re exactly what they’re looking for.


You can also reference an accomplishment of the company that you find in your research. Go over any findings, such as projects or company reports. Bringing this up briefly in your application will show the employer that you have put in the work in learn about their company. Be sure to express your enthusiasm for being a part of the team and accomplishments like these. Not only will you feel more prepared for the interview, but you may even impress the employer.



2) Keep It to the Point with Only A Few Paragraphs


What you want to avoid doing is sending a cover letter with one long paragraph. It’s best to break up the text to make it easier to scan through, which is exactly what some hiring managers will inevitably do. All you need is three specific paragraphs to get your point across. By keeping it as brief as possible, you show that you are respecting their time.


The first paragraph should consist of an introduction that informs the employer which position you are applying for and why. Keep in mind that the company may have several other open positions that they are hiring form, so it’s important to specify. Let them know how you would like to contribute to the success of the company.


The second paragraph should tell the employer a few key points of your experience. Career experts recommend picking your top three relevant skills or accomplishments and writing about them in your letter. Try to avoid reiterating exactly what was written on your resume word-for-word. Your cover letter should be a reflection of your resume, but that doesn’t mean you should copy and paste your work history. Not giving any new information in the cover letter would defeat the purpose of the additional document entirely.


It’s also best to avoid continuing on about certain accomplishments for too long as well. If you can get your point across in fewer sentences, then it’s best to do that. You can use bullet points to condense the letter and make it easier to read through as well. What have you learned from your previous job and how can it be applied to this new position?


The last paragraph of your cover letter should consist of asking for an interview with the employer. Candidates who ask for the things that they want will have a much better chance of receiving it. This final paragraph is what we refer to as your call to action. We will discuss how to write a strong call to action later in this article.

 


3) The Proper Length


Your cover letter is exactly that – a cover highlighting the most important information for your application. Therefore, it should never exceed one page. Keeping it within the length of the page will increase the chances that the employer reads it in its entirety. Thinking that it’s doing them a service, many candidates will go into extensive detail in their cover letter. But the truth is, most employers don’t have the time to read through pages and pages of resumes and cover letters. Most of them are already receiving so many applications as it is.


Even if you have a long work history, the best way to keep it within the length of a page is by talking about only your most relevant experience. Tell the employer about the experience that can be tied back to this new position.


We discussed the three crucial paragraphs in a successful cover letter a few moments ago. Each of these paragraphs should have only three to four sentences each to keep everything within the length of the page. Remove all sentences that you think are unnecessary to keep the entire letter as concise as possible. You will have better luck getting a call for an interview if you deliver a professional application with this structure.



4) Spell Checked and Grammatically Correct


Have you ever read something with a large number of typos or improper grammar? It sticks out like a sore thumb and looks very unprofessional to whoever is reading it.

In fact, many employers agree that having spelling errors and improper grammar is the quickest way to weed out applicants. Cover letters with a lot of errors show carelessness and a lack of thought going into the application. If an employer decides they would like to read your cover letter, then it needs to be error-free. The easiest way to do this is with the basic spell check function on Microsoft Word.


Because Microsoft Word can miss certain errors at times, it’s best to check your work with an online spelling and grammar check as well. There are also a variety of websites online where you can take advantage of these free services. Not only do they give you results immediately, but they will provide you with the extra assurance that your work is error-free. First you can write your cover letter in Microsoft Word or your application of choice. Then, just paste your text into one of these free online websites:



If time allows, consider having a previous employer or colleague look over your cover letter and resume for you. By taking all of these steps to proofread and check your work, you will be ahead of many other applicants. Show the employer that you take the application seriously and you have a good chance of receiving a call.


5) Sell Yourself as Concisely as Possible


When introducing yourself to the potential employer, it’s very important to remember that you are selling yourself. As we mentioned before, this should be done concisely in only three to four paragraphs. Your cover letter is the opportunity for the employer to get to know a little more about you and your past accomplishments.


With this in mind, what are your greatest achievements so far? Keep the resume very factual, while still being as confident as possible in your abilities. If you don’t believe that you are the best candidate for the job, then neither will be the employer. This will make a positive impression from the very start of your application and increase your chances of successfully landing the job.



Why You Would Be the Best Person for This Position


What makes you unique and different from the other applicants? This must be conveyed in your cover letter. Always highlight your best qualities and be as honest as possible.


Do you have exceptional written and verbal communication skills? Do you flourish in team environments and get along well with others? Your cover letter is the perfect place to showcase these soft skills. Usually these are your natural abilities that have been developed over time. These are highly desired by employers because they determine how you will fit in at this new workplace. These traits affect how you will act both with your co-workers and with management.


In addition to your soft skills, you should include some relevant hard skills or technical skills. This may include skills like computer programming, typing or answering phone calls – whatever is relevant to the position. A short variety of both can be communicated in the body of your cover letter.


Whenever possible, you should include real life examples in your cover letter. Let’s say that you’re a Marketing Account Manager. Maybe you improved customer retention rates, increasing the company revenue by 16% within the year. Providing exact numbers and examples will back up your claims and paint a better picture for the employer. It’s better to show them how you will benefit the company instead of just telling them that you’re skilled at something.



Finish with a Strong Call to Action


A strong cover letter also includes a call to action (CTA) at the end. Input this call to action is final and third paragraph in the document. The main job of the CTA is summarizing why the employer should bring you in for an interview. Remind them why you are qualified for the job, state what you would like them to do, and thank them for their time. One of these three calls to action are perfect for a cover letter:


  • Ask them to look at your resume
  • View your profile or portfolio if relevant
  • Ask them to send you an email or give you a call

Here is a complete example of how you may choose to end your cover letter:

“Based on my three years of experience as a Marketing Account Manager, I believe it would be mutually beneficial for us to meet. Please give me a call at your earliest convenience so we can discuss my qualifications in further detail.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

(Your name)”


Here are some additional cover letter closing statements with ideas for some calls to action. Use them to your tailor your own cover letter.



You’re Finished!


Now you know exactly what it takes to write a successful cover letter. You don’t need to create something elaborate to catch the attention of your potential employer. Keep it short and sweet, while letting the employer know exactly what makes you unique. Doing so will show that you have put in the effort and value their time – and help land you the interview!


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