Last week on the HJG Staffing blog, we discussed the different scenarios in which you may or may not need a cover letter. This week’s blog post is dedicated to those of us who do need to create a cover letter, and the good news is that it might be easier than you think. Let’s break down the dos and don’ts of creating your perfect cover letter.
1. DO include your contact info prominently at the top of the page: This is an easy step to forget. Because most people who send a cover letter also send a resume, many of them assume that because they listed their contact information on the resume, they don’t need to list it again. While this technically may be true, it’s still a good idea to list it again. This helps your name recognition and makes it easier for hiring managers or interviewers to contact you.
In either upper corner of your document, write your name, contact email, and phone number, and/or any other relevant contact information.
2. DO keep your cover letter to one page: a cover letter should serve to highlight your accomplishments and provide an idea of your personality and work ethic. You can also highlight why your specific skills are suitable for a position. For instance, Deborah, a former English teacher, eventually became the school’s photographer and yearbook editor. Later, she decided to apply for a job at a different school. The new school was hiring a social media manager, so Deborah was able to explain how her experience as a teacher and yearbook editor made her the perfect fit for the open position.
Sample: My former career as an English teacher and yearbook editor has provided me integral skills with both children and digital media. Working with a DSLR Nikon and adobe photoshop, I completed the yearbook, and many of my photos were simultaneously used on our social media channels.
3. DO NOT copy your resume: while it may be tempting, it is not necessary to copy your resume into your cover letter. Hiring managers want to see something different on both pages. This can be confusing because we mention our previous work history and skill sets on our resumes. Therefore, elaboration is key.
It is okay to mention information from your resume but in an elaborative effort. This means expanding on what is listed in your resume. If you won awards at your previous job, expand on that in your cover letter! If your job was working at a bakery, feel free to further explain details that seem appropriate and could even contribute to the job for which you are applying.
Strong Sample: During my time at the bakery, I managed the breakfast shift from 4 AM – 11 AM, ensuring all machines ran properly and pastries and custom orders were properly decorated and distributed.
Weak Sample: I managed a bakery morning shift from 4 AM – 11AM.
As you can see, elaborating on specific skills and knowledge is much more effective than simply stating basic facts, which brings us to our next piece of advice!
4. DO highlight your achievements! Resumes do not always leave space for you to expand on skills and achievements. As mentioned above, your cover letter is the time for your achievements and personality to shine! You can highlight what makes you unique and the best fit for the job.
Mark, an engineer, is rather shy, especially when it comes to interviews. He sees cover letters as a, opportunity to highlight his strengths and help others see his personality and value.
In his cover letter, Mark wrote, “My previous manager described me as a ‘quiet leader,’ always completing my tasks and helping others behind the scenes.”
Tidbits like this are specific and stand out, opposed to general statements like, “I have leadership skills.”
For some, writing about personal achievements feels strange or boastful. If you fall into this mindset, try to remember that hiring managers are genuinely trying to get a taste for your authentic self. Most companies receive stacks of resumes per day from people who have the criteria to work the job. Therefore, stand out by being honest and specific in your cover letter.
If you’re stuck, reach out to friends, family, or past coworkers for ideas. You can ask them about your personality, work ethic, and anything else that feels relevant.
5. DO NOT send the same exact cover letter to every company: most people apply for jobs in similar categories. The good news is that if most of your job options are similar, you won’t need to change your cover letter drastically. However, it is good to tweak your letter to correspond with the job description.
For instance, Carla was searching for sales positions at both wellness companies and insurance agencies. While both positions were for sales, the things being sold are different. Therefore, Carla highlighted her sales skills and experience in both cover letters but catered each one to the specific job.
Wellness company: My time studying nutrition at university and working as a sales representative for FruitFun Vitamins has given me a unique perspective on both nutritional solutions and the sales experience.
Insurance company: My time working in sales and wellness has shown me that my true passion lies in helping others find affordable options that improve their well-being and offer a sense of peace for the future.
While both examples are similar and use honest information, they are slightly altered to match each position’s preferences.
6. Finally, DO use a free grammar checker!
We are so lucky to live in a day and age where the internet can accomplish pretty much anything. For those of us who dreaded English class and grammar lessons, the good news is that there are free websites that will check your writing and make suggestions. Microsoft Word offers this to an extent, but some websites take this to a more in-depth level, giving useful suggestions.
Programs like this can ease stress, especially when the act of making a resume and a cover letter is often stressful. Utilizing an online grammar checker is like having a free proof-reader to help you make sure your writing is ready to submit.
Try googling “Free Grammar Checker,” and you will find many websites.
Last week, we discussed whether cover letters were necessary at all. This week, we broke down the ways to ensure your cover letter is effective and ready to submit! While tasks like this can feel painful and overwhelming, breaking them down into steps makes them manageable and a bit less scary. Be sure to include your contact info, keep your letter to a page, and use fresh, expansive information. Tweak your letter for each unique company and highlight your amazing achievements; you deserve to be seen and hired!
HJG Staffing has been successfully moving people forward for 20 years. We are so happy to see you here. Looking for a job? Check our open jobs tab and follow us on social media!