Let’s face it. Cover letters are hard to write. You’re writing a letter to a nameless manager in an office somewhere asking them to consider you for a job. What do you say? How do you even begin?
And the truth is…many hiring managers don’t even read them. Many skip straight to the resume, give it a 10 second glance and move on. So what’s the point? Do you even need to write a cover letter?
The answer is Yes. If the hiring manager is looking for a cover letter, you will lose out if you don’t have one. Plus, it’s a great place to sell yourself. It needs to be interesting and relevant.
But it doesn’t need to take hours to write and it shouldn’t be painful, well, not too painful, to write.
The best cover letters are short, easy to skim and to the point. Most can easily be written in less than 10 sentences. It should not be a narrative version of your resume or a complete autobiography of your life. But there are some important points to cover that will greatly increase your chance of getting that coveted interview. It’s also important to customize each cover letter for each application. A generic cover letter will not get you anywhere.
Here are the 10 sentences (or less) that you need to create a killer cover letter without killing yourself in the process.
Introduction: 1-2 sentences
Introduce yourself and give a description of what you are doing currently and why you are interested in the job.
“I am an account manager with eight years experience in sales and account management in the wacky widget field and I would like to submit my application for the sales manager position at EZ Sales, Inc. “
“As a highly skilled project manager with 10 years of experience, I would like to submit my application for the project manager position with your company. My experience in data analysis and grant proposals would be a great fit for your company.
Alternately, if you have a connection in the company AND if you have their permission to use their name, mention that here - first paragraph right up front. It’s not fair, but it’s true. Personal connections, i.e., your network, will increase your chance of getting an interview every time.
“Your program manager, Joe Schmo, was my supervisor in my previous position and he suggested that I apply for this position. I am an account manager with eight years experience in sales and account management in the wacky widget field.”
“Mary Jones recommended that I contact you directly about this position. Mary and I have worked together on several projects in brand management and she thought that EZ Money Inc. would be a good fit for my marketing style and experience.”
Career highlights: 2-3 sentences
Write 2 - 3 sentences highlighting your career achievements that are pertinent to the job description. Again, it is essential to customize each letter for each job application. What are the top two assets you have that would make you an excellent candidate for this particular job possibility? How does your education or training fit with the job description? In other words, why should they hire you?
“In my current position, I have trained 3 administrative assistants on company policies and procedures and spearheaded the effort to go digital with online bookkeeping, scheduling , and paperwork saving our company over $5000 each year. I have a well rounded skill set, including managing daily operations of staff and team scheduling.”
“After working for a decade in project management, I have advanced knowledge of XYX software and planning systems and have trained over 30 users in implementation and proficiency. I am known for creating effective training programs that are effective and practical - and a little entertaining.”
If you are transitioning from another field, make sure to include those transferable skills that are relevant to this new job possibility. Change the language - from “teaching math and science” to “developing focused curriculum and training learners on key concepts and skills”
Company focus: 1-2 sentences
Why do you want to work for this company? Show them that you have done your research and you know what the company does. Why would you choose to work for this company? How do you fit into their culture? What impresses you about the company? Impress them with your knowledge and initiative (but just with one or two sentences)
“I have always been impressed by ABC company’s cutting edge technology and vision. My software expertise and training experience would be a great asset for the new series of training and development programs. “
Conclusion: 1-2 sentences
Polish off your cover letter by expressing your interest in a job interview. Remember to thank the employer for their consideration.
“Please consider my resume and let me know if you would like to schedule a phone call or an interview for the management position. Thanks so much for your time.”
And boom. You’re done.
You have a customized cover letter that will help you land that interview.
You can add a sentence or two if needed to elaborate on a particular skill or achievement that is particularly applicable to the job possibility. Or add a one or two sentence story about why you love the company. But keep it short and break it up into 2-3 sentence paragraphs. Managers like to skim cover letters and it’s easier to keep their attention with short paragraphs (no more than 5 paragraphs total).
You will need to write a custom cover letter for each job application you complete. And don’t forget to customize your resume as well. It’s a pain, I know, but well worth the effort for landing that important job interview.
With these simple steps, cover letters can be quick and easy, well almost. Just remember to proofread them carefully. A cover letter filled with typos is worse than no cover letter at all.
Anita Flowers is a Board Certified career and life coach at Blue Sage Career Strategies. A little different than most life coaches, Anita’s background in clinical psychology and years of experience as a counselor gives her a rich understanding of human development and family dynamics. Her work history includes 13 years working with an international business company and 12 years doing individual and family counseling as well as career counseling. This blend of counseling and business experience gives Anita a unique perspective on the world of work and life. Anita works with people literally all over the world to help them discover a life and career they love. Contact Anita here to get started on your new career and life!