Writing a cover letter can be challenging, especially due to changes in online applications and new job-sourcing websites such as Monster, Indeed and so on over the past few years. Don’t let it deter you from finding that dream job! Let’s take a closer look at cover letters and learn more about how to make yours stand out so that hiring managers take notice!

Why is a cover letter important?

A cover letter allows you to say a bit about yourself and why you’re applying for the job in a way that a resume doesn’t. While a resume lists your skills, achievements, experience and strengths so that employers can be sure you meet their qualifications, a cover letter is an introduction. It’s your opportunity to make a great first impression, reveal your own voice and briefly explain your suitability for the position.

When do you need a cover letter?

Almost all formal job applications should have a cover letter attached, with the exception of some websites that only allow you to upload a resume document or complete an online or in-person checklist or form. There are also times where people successfully apply for certain entry-level positions such as in the food service, manufacturing or retail industries without a cover letter, but typically, most part-time and full-time jobs require a cover letter unless stated otherwise.

Essential cover letter tips:

We’ve outlined 15 top tips for your cover letter to help make sure your resume goes to the TOP of the pile:

  • Keep it brief – a few short paragraphs and never more than one page.
  • Do a NEW cover letter for each posting; tailor it specifically so you don’t sound like a robot. You can re-use some aspects of other letters, but it must sound authentic if you want it read.
  • Explain any unique issues that an employer needs to know, such as if you can only work part-time, if you’ve made a career change, if there is a financial incentive/subsidy they may qualify for if they hire you, or if you are still in school and don’t have your qualifications yet.
  • Mention if someone has referred you to the apply for the job – name dropping is totally fine in this instance, especially if the employer values that person’s opinion.
  • If you are cold calling/sending letters to companies who don’t currently have a job posting, a cover letter is essential to explain why you are interested in working there.
  • Remove any boring or repetitive words and add your own flair.
  • Use industry terminology that is suited to that job. For example, don’t say ‘customers’ if ‘clients’ is the preferred word for that business. Show them you really understand their needs!
  • Avoid using “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”– those are outdated. Find out a name whenever possible, or use “Dear Hiring Manager” if you’re really stuck.
  • Don’t repeat exactly what’s in your resume; add in more details about your skills and why you are the best choice.
  • Let them know how you will add value to their organization – you’re the solution to their problems because you’re the one who can … (fill in the blanks).
  • Avoid cute or gimmicky things such as adding your photo, scents, inspirational quotes, or a rambling paragraph about how much you LOVE their company or products. Also, avoid telling a sad story about your life or situation; keep it positive and let them see that you’re a professional.
  • Follow all instructions carefully. The job posting may ask that you list available interview times, salary expectations or why you are the perfect candidate. Be sure to answer these.
  • Edit and proofread everything at least 3 times and ask someone to review it for you.
  • Have a nice closing. Thank them for taking the time and let them know that you hope to hear from them for an interview. Don’t TELL them to call you, and never ask for a ‘read receipt’.
  • When emailing, it’s best if you attach the cover letter and resume instead of writing the cover letter contents into the body of the email. You can’t assume that the person who receives the email will be the one reviewing resumes, and also, the format of the email may be compromised.

As you can see, there is a lot to know about cover letters, but once you’ve gotten a few under your belt, it gets easier every time. Don’t try to do it alone! Come visit us at Focus Employment Services — We have two locations, one in Angus and another in Alliston. We also have amazing workshops to sign up for, and we can give you lots of helpful tips and tricks to make your job hunt easier. Proof-reading your cover letter and resume for you, along with giving you any suggestions we think might help is free of charge to our job seekers. For all your job search needs, connect with us; we’re here to get you on the road to success!