The ultimate guide to writing a winning cover letter

Though they might seem like a relic from the past, cover letters still play an important role in the hiring process. Writing a stellar cover letter can make a crucial difference when it comes to landing your dream job. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the dos and don’t when it comes to crafting an awesome cover letter. We’ll also cover what hiring managers actually think about cover letters and the pros and cons of writing cover letters.

What Do Hiring Managers Think About Cover Letters?

Cover letters let hiring managers bypass some of the tough interview questions and answers by providing important information up front. Many hiring managers also use cover letters to gauge an applicant’s interest in the role. According to one survey, nearly half of all HR managers said that using a cover letter is one of the best ways to draw attention to your resume.

Killer Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts 

In this section, you’ll learn about a few cover letter best practices.

Do

Follow these tips when crafting your next cover letter.

Address the hiring manager directly if possible

If at all possible, find out who the hiring manager for your position is and address your cover letter to that person. Psychological research shows that people enjoy hearing their own names. Aside from the personal touch, this also shows that you’re capable of conducting independent research and that you’re willing to go the extra mile.

Appropriately structure and format your letter

A rambling or incoherent cover letter comes across as unprofessional, and it will reflect poorly on your candidacy. After all, this is the hiring manager’s first interaction with you. If they can’t count on you to communicate clearly and professionally at this stage in the hiring process, why would they expect your on-the-job performance to be any better?

Tailor your cover letter to the job posting

You don’t need to stuff your cover letter with keywords pulled directly from the job posting. Instead, write your cover letter to reflect the duties and responsibilities outlined in the job description. Reach back to past experiences or accomplishments that align with the needs of the job that you’re applying for.

Don’t

Avoid these common cover letter pitfalls.

Discuss your salary needs

Inserting your salary preferences in your cover letter may come across as arrogant, or like you don’t care about the job. Best practices dictate that you should wait until later in the job interview process to bring up compensation. Typically, you would discuss pay during the interview process.

Dwell too much on your education and job title

Focus on connecting your experience and education to the job that you’re applying to. Simply enumerating your education and current job title does little to tell the hiring manager how well you would perform the job that you’re applying for. Worse, you might come across as pompous if you’re relying on a name-brand school or a fancy job title to do the work for you.

Use overly formal or stiff language

Do not address your cover letter with:

  • “To whom it may concern”
  • “Dear Sir or Ma’am”

Such language comes across as uncomfortably stiff and out of touch. Modern workplaces favor more casual language. If you can’t find the name of the hiring manager, it’s OK to simply begin your letter with “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Cover Letter Pros and Cons 

In this section, we’ll highlight a few of the advantages and disadvantages of writing a cover letter.

Pros

  • Cover letters allow you to personalize your candidacy.
  • You can use your cover letter to explain troublesome work gaps.
  • Cover letters let you craft a narrative around your work and education history.
  • Many hiring managers prefer that candidates submit a cover letter.
  • Preparing a cover letter shows initiative if the job posting doesn’t explicitly ask for one.

Cons

  • Cover letters are a time sink.
  • Time spent tweaking your cover letter used to apply for more jobs.
  • Many cover letters never get read.
  • A poorly written or off-target cover letter may disqualify you from further consideration.

Pathrise has the resources you need to craft that perfect cover letter. Get connected with a Pathrise mentor and take advantage of their industry expertise. Pathrise offers comprehensive job placement assistance. From mock interviews to detailed resume feedback, Pathrise is there for you. Best of all, you won’t have to pay a thing until you land a job. Apply to become a Pathrise fellow today!

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