People ask “how long should my cover letter be” more than any other question we’ve seen.
The goal, and you’ll hear this a lot through the rest of the article, is to sell yourself in about 200 words or less.
Next, people usually worry about who to address a cover letter to.
With the power of Google, you should be able to find the hiring manager’s name in no more than 15 minutes.
If the process takes longer than that, or the internet does not have the name, we recommend two equal options:
Don’t address anyone in the cover letter
Simply use “Hiring Manager”
Everyone has their own opinion on the importance of cover letters. But the fact of the matter is, if a company asks for it, you need to submit it.
Several hiring managers surveyed mentioned that merely requiring people to submit a cover letter acts as screening mechanism for on the fence applicants.
The Hemingway App is an online tool to help you do basic editing in addition to the spell check built into most word processors.
It will check for the use the active tense, measure the reading level, and highlight adverbs. All good general writing practices to have anyways. Not to mention..
Concise, articulate sentences.
Again, you only have about 200 words to sell yourself, so every 10 words of fluff wastes 5% of time you could be showing how you’re an excellent fit for the position.
Good: My experience creating a sales team in my previous position would allow me to jump into your company and get sales started.
Bad: Your company would be an excellent data point on my resume for my sales career.
Keep the whole cover letter laser focused on the needs of the position at hand and brag about ways your experience helps the specific problems associated with the position.
Every cover letter should be customized to the position and company as every position has something unique about it.
So while you can use templates and case studies to get a sense of how to write a good cover letter, don’t just use the built in cover letters in Microsoft Word.
Repeating theme here, make sure whatever you highlight directly applies to the needs of the position at hand.
You want to showcase how you can repeat the achievement for the hiring company. The end result of highlighting your achievement shows how you will add value to the new organization.
A good cover letter is like a firm handshake; it’s how a hiring manager generates a first impression.
A strong cover letter essentially demonstrates your ability to take all these tips and succinctly communicate them to the hiring manager. 🙂
I get to write online where I have the luxury of not using paragraphs and bullet points to guide me.
Cover letters have no such luxury.
Aim to write in full sentences that each communicate an idea.
Every single hiring manager looks for spelling mistakes and grammar issues. The basic saying goes, “If you can’t spend enough time to proofread your cover letter, how will you ever pay attention to detail on a daily basis”.
Hiring managers normally have so many applicants that they look for reasons not to advance past cover letters. Don’t give them a simple reason to move you into the reject pile by forgetting to change the name of the company or using their wrong address.
There’s a reason BuzzFeed lists always include numbers in the title, numbers resonate well with people and get them engaged.
If you managed a budget, mention the size. If you increased revenue, by how much? A team of people, how many?
It will give the hiring manager a sense of the magnitude of your experience.
This piece of advice is a bit tricky. You want to mention your achievements and experience without going into the nitty gritty detail.
So if you were named best teacher in Springfield Elementary, the cover letter offers a way to show the why/how more than just saying you won the award.
I think of cover letters a bit like powerpoint slides. They should give you a sense of what I’m saying, but shouldn’t be word for word the same.
Every company should have a website — read it
Most sites have an about us section that communicates company values and ideas. Even if no about us page exists, you should be able to get a sense of the company through the marketing and branding on the site.
Take the values of the company and try to incorporate them into the cover letter.
Pretty straight forward reminder here.
Instead, talk about a general work passion or a passion you have for the company.
While the cover letter aims to demonstrate how you’d add value to the company, no one said it has to be boring.
If you have a personality, let it show through subtly.
You don’t need to be a ninja or a guru, but if you try to make everyday fun, give your cover letter a little spice.
You have no need for self doubt on a cover letter.
Never include lines like “I’m sure you’re getting candidates much more qualified than me, but..” or “I’ve never done this before, but…”
Focus on how your specific experiences and abilities would allow you to do the job. If you don’t think you can do the job, why would a hiring manager think otherwise?
PDFs have a bunch of advantages:
They maintain formatting as they get passed around and printed
They can’t be edited easily between when you submit it and it meets its intended target
They can be read across most devices (including smartphones)
Unfortunately, some sites only accept .txt or .doc files, so pdfs aren’t an option there.
But if you can control it, go pdf.
Save the over the top formalities and greetings for country clubs and renaissance fairs.
The intro to the cover letter should focus on creating a rapport with the reader in some way. Talk to them like you were sitting across the table at an interview, not a debutante ball.
That’s the entire exercise of a cover letter. It’s your elevator pitch.
By the end of the letter, you should feel comfortable that it reflects what you’ve accomplished and how it can be applied to the help the hiring company’s needs.
Just don’t continue to ramble on or you’ll lose the reader very quickly.
While you need to write in full sentences, you don’t need to write four sentence paragraphs with 25 words per sentence.
Put different thoughts on new lines and get the gist across on the first line of a paragraph.
It’s like reading this post. If you just read each of the 30 points, you’d know the gist of what I’m talking about in detail below them
In journalism, there’s the concept of the inverted pyramid which states that your lede (intro) should tell the main point of the story right off the bat.
Put differently, lead with your best stuff.
Get them interested in learning more about you right away and don’t save the punch line for the last sentence.
It’s good to try and give a hiring manager a sense of why this place/position. There are very likely many openings with the same title and responsibilities, so why does this particular job stand out to you?
Reasons could be that it’s a product you’ve used in the past and enjoyed. It could be because of the direction you see the company going in. Or it could be the values and culture of the company that speak to you.
Let ‘em know why.
“O. M. G. I’ve been reading IGN since I was 5. Can I have your autograph?”
That’s not how you want to start out your relationship with an employer.
Hiring companies want you to have a passion for the brand or product, but communicate it subtly and with professionalism.
Unless you think you have a really strong understanding of the hiring manager’s humor, you probably shouldn’t include any jokes or sarcasm.
At some level, you want to minimize the risks of a cover letter and humor is a high risk proposition with limited upside.
Try to find another way to be memorable.
Using a different font, like trying to be funny, has a lot of downside with not a ton of upside.
Sure you might look the look of comic sans or arial bold, but why put off a hiring manager that’s expecting times new roman or arial.
Keep it simple and stick no frills fonts like:
Times New Roman
“In my last job, I synergized with people from other departments on a regular basis to execute on our detailed marketing plans.”
“In my last job, I worked on a cross functional team to further the company’s main objectives.”
Less is more.
There are a ton of guides out there like this one and I suggest reading them all.
You’ll learn the important takeaways that act as kind of a reminder on the wall of what goes into a good cover letter. Write those down.
After you’ve produced a first draft, go check the draft against the takeaways and see if there’s anything to add/remove/change.
Rinse and repeat until you get what you think is a solid end result.
At the end of the day, your cover letter becomes a reflection of yourself, experiences, and values.
You need to be comfortable with everything you say on it. So feel free to break the rules and suggestions I laid out here if they don’t feel right for you.
Just, whatever you do, don’t be a teenage girl at a boy band concert. That just ain’t right.
Dear Hiring Manager,
I’ve spent the last four plus years developing a team that studies the underbelly of the internet — how do people find sites, what makes people take action when they get there, and why do they share sites with friends. Some may say I have acquired a “certain set of skills”…
I want to apply these skills as the Marketing Manager Of Customer Acquisition at Citrix.
At Movoto, I put together a team of about 20 people focused on customer acquisition across all online marketing channels. During that time, we increased traffic 5x to 21 million visits per month by utilizing SEO, content marketing, and paid acquisition.
Developing a similar team at Citrix could open up new avenues for customer acquisition. We would conduct user interviews, competitor analysis, and market research with the aim of creating a detailed acquisition plan. The plan would be tailored to our target audience, demonstrate how Citrix products help them get more done, and communicate the brand.
I look forward to discussing my skills and experience with you, and how I would be a good fit at Citrix, in the near future.