What is the purpose of a cover letter?
The main purpose of a cover letter is to fill in the gaps in your resume, and give a hiring manager some insight into your professional background. The best cover letters act as an effective marketing tool, and the product being marketed is you.
A cover letter tells the hiring manager that the role interests you so much that you believe a resume alone isn’t enough. You want the position, and you’re willing to write them a customized cover letter to give yourself the best chance at getting hired.
Cover letters also make it clear how you plan on using your talents and experience to benefit your new employer. While a well-written resume lists your skills and previous achievements, a cover letter informs the hiring manager how those achievements will translate into future success at your new company.
- demonstrate your interest in a role
- market yourself as the ideal candidate
- explain any red flags that your resume might raise
- explain how the achievements listed on your resume make you the perfect fit
- provide space to elaborate on your qualifications
How can you make your cover letter more effective?
It can be difficult for a hiring manager to spot a generic resume, because resumes act as overviews of your past achievements and skills. If you’re applying for three different software engineering jobs, you probably don’t need to change your resume much for each application.
However, it’s much easier for employers to spot generic cover letters. That’s because a cover letter should contain information directly about their company.
Customizing your cover letter to individual companies is easy. Here are six tips for making a cover letter that meets the needs of the company you’re applying to:
1. Research the company and showcase what you’ve learned
Researching your target company shows you’ve put effort into your application.
If you’re applying for a customer service supervisor role at a brand that’s opening a new branch, mention that you’ve worked in a newly opened store before. Explain how this experience means you’ll be able to adapt — and help your new coworkers adapt — to the new workplace.
2. Explain why you’re passionate about the role
Your cover letter gives you the unique opportunity to explain why you really want the role, a detail you can’t fully spell out on your resume.
If you’re hoping to land a sous-chef role in a French restaurant, you might tell the hiring manager that you spent a year in Bordeaux and fell in love with French cuisine.
3. Keep your cover letter short
If you’re still thinking to yourself “what is the point of a cover letter?”, you’ll be pleased to know that you can write one without spending a lot of time on it.
Short cover letters are actually more effective than longer ones because the hiring manager can quickly find your relevant achievements. You can even write an effective cover letter in under 150 words, as long as you make every word count by only including relevant details.
4. Find out the hiring manager’s name
Here’s an example of a professional cover letter salutation:
Dear Ms. Ford,
5. Fill your cover letter with numbers
Adding numbers to your cover letter shows potential employers what you can achieve for them.
For example, if you’re applying for a customer service representative role, say something like “Handled 47 calls per hour.”
6. Explain any red flags from your resume
It’s not easy to explain red flags on a resume because space is scarce. Use your cover letter instead. If you’ve taken two years off work to care for your newborn twins, your cover letter is the place to explain this.
If you’re moving back home to care for your parents, reassure employers you aren’t just randomly applying for jobs in different cities with a relocation cover letter.