Helpful Tips for Writing a Strong Cover Letter

Part of the job seeking process involves preparing and submitting a resume.  While we have discussed resume writing in the past (see links below) we have not really discussed the importance of preparing a strong cover letter.

What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is simply a document that introduces yourself and provides additional information about why you are applying and how you are qualified for the positon being applied for. Typically a cover letter accompanies your resume when you are applying for a job.  There are four main objectives of a cover letter.

What Are the Objectives of a Cover Letter?                         
As a person seeking work, you really need to sell yourself and differentiate yourself from other candidates.  However prior to (and as part of) the interview process you need to introduce yourself.  This is where the cover letter becomes a critical asset for you.  There are four main objectives of the cover letter:

  1. Introduce yourself – this may very be the first opportunity you have to introduce yourself to your future employer. A great cover letter can go a long way in securing you an interview and making a memorable first impression. 
  2. Communicate interest in the position – in your cover letter you also have the opportunity to communicate why you would like to apply for the position by explaining (in part) how you found out about the position and what the position means to you.
  3. Explain why you would be the perfect fit for the job – of course your cover letter is your opportunity to explain how you are qualified for the position and what skills that you bring to the table.
  4. Request an interview to further discuss how you will be an asset to the team. Your cover letter should have one main call to action and that is to request an interview.

How to Write a Strong Cover Letter: Do’s and Don’ts
There are a number of things that you should consider when writing a cover letter and there are a few things that you should not necessarily include in a cover letter.  If you want to increase your chances of being called for an interview, here are some do’s and don’ts of writing a cover letter.

  1. DO take the time to research the company and position that you are applying for.
  2. DO be specific – include the position being applied for, address the letter to someone specific (i.e. to the name of the HR Manager or Manager) as opposed to Dear Sir or Madam or To Whom It May Concern.
  3. DO be concise – unless otherwise request your cover letter should be a single page. Within the page communicate your interest in the position and share your experience specific to the position being applied for.  Three or four paragraphs should be all you need.
  4. DO provide some insight into your personality/character – while you should be selling yourself in your cover letter, you should also communicate the elements of uniqueness that make you, you. Without overdoing it, your cover letter should communicate your experience and how you can be an asset to the team.
  5. DO keep your cover letter professional – with regards to professional or trades positions being applied for, although you want to provide a glimpse into your personality, your cover letter should be professional in nature.
  6. DO customize your cover letter for each position that you apply for – chances are you are applying for multiple jobs. Ensure that you have a unique cover letter for each position that you apply for.  Tailor your cover letter to speak to the organization that you are applying to.
  7. DO include one main call to action… to request an interview – the main goal of your cover letter is to secure an interview so that you can provide additional information as to how you can be a great fit to the team.

Of course there are some items that you should avoid when creating a cover letter:

  1. DO NOT simply repeat what is on your resume of your CV (curriculum vitae). Your cover letter is an opportunity to make a first impression by highlighting your key experience and interest in the position that is being applied for.
  2. DO NOT ramble – your cover letter needs to be clean and concise. Emphasize your experience that is specific to the role being applied for (are we seeing a theme here yet?)
  3. DO NOT try to hard sell your skills or expertise – be concise and to the point.
  4. DO NOT include skills that you do not have – write about the skills you do have and be confident in your letter. If you are not qualified for the position, you probably should not apply.
  5. DO NOT generalize – know who your audience is. Prepare your cover letter with the needs of your audience in mind.  What are their objectives and their needs?  How do you satisfy those elements?
  6. DO NOT lie about your experience – providing false information that may be critical to the role will not provide benefit to anyone. Again if you are not qualified for the role, you probably should not apply.
  7. DO NOT get too personal – your objective with your cover letter is to get an interview. There is no need to overshare information in your cover letter.
  8. DO NOT come off arrogant or too overconfident in your cover letter – a cover letter boasting about accomplishments can also be thrown in the has been pile just as easily as those who lack experience. Avoid overselling yourself.
  9. DO NOT explain why you left your last/current job – employers want to hear about the present and the future and how you can be an asset to their company.
  10. DO NOT submit a cover letter without proof reading or spellchecking – would you hire someone who has a cover letter full of typos and spelling mistakes?

Part of the job seeking process is creating and submitting a cover letter and resume for each position that you apply for.  The above cover letter writing tips should be helpful as you prepare for you job search.  In addition, please check out our series on Resume Tips:

Resume Tips:  Part One

Resume Tips: Part Two – The Object Statements

Resume Tips: Part Three – Resume Action Verbs

Are you a job seeker looking for a job?  Need help preparing your resume and cover letter? Contact Aspire Recruitment Solutions at 778-484-0161. Aspire Recruitment Solutions is the leading human resource solution and employment agency provider to clients in Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops, Northern BC and Alberta. We connect great employers with the best candidates every day.