Hi, I’m Jen. I spent years as a hiring manager and want to teach you how to write the perfect professional cover letter. In just a few sentences, I’ll give you the keys to make sure your cover letter stands out above the rest and helps you get the job interview. If you’re looking for career advice, I post new videos every week so subscribe to the channel and turn on notifications so you’re the first to hear about them.
Is a cover letter even necessary anymore?The short answer is yes. Even though there’s going to be a lot of cases where no one reads it. So let me tell you why you should still write it even though a lot of managers tend to skip over it. If we go back to why cover letters became a thing, it was because decades ago – a decade ago – it wasn’t uncommon for job postings to be done in a newspaper or on bulletin boards in the community. When you were sending your resume or your application in for a role, you really needed to tell the person why you were sending it, what position you were interested in.
Now that so much hiring is done online, the majority of the initial steps are done online at most companies whether small, medium, or large. In many of the systems that are used to manage the hiring, the hiring manager gets two different documents: one for your cover letter and one for your resume. So a lot of people are inclined to just go to the resume because that’s where the meat of the information should be. That’s really where most of the content is going to be. But there is still a very valuable place for having a professional cover letter.
There are cases where you’re going to be asked to email the hiring manager or email HR with your resume for certain positions. Sometimes they’ll ask for specific things in the cover letters. Even if you’re not asked for it, even if you’re submitting online in a system, I’d still suggest going ahead and writing that cover letter. The keys I’m going to teach you for writing this are going to make it so simple. It’s literally going to take you a few seconds to put it together and it adds a little bit of extra polish, even if in some cases it won’t be read. Chances are someone along the way is going to read it. Having a good, professional cover letter is definitely a must. Let’s get into what a professional cover letter looks like and I’ll give you the exact script you should use when you write your next cover letter.
I am a big fan of cover letters that walk the line between formal and informal. I don’t think that your cover letter needs to feel super stiff. You’re really – in very few cases – does it need to be overly formal and you also don’t want to err the other way and go too informal. It’s definitely better to go too formal versus informal, but you don’t need to speak in a way that is super uncommon for anybody to speak or write today. The reality is we do a lot of written communication and your cover letter gives a little bit of a clue into whether you’re able to communicate professionally or not. When you’re writing your cover letter or if you’re sending an email that has your resume and you’re essentially putting the cover letter in the body of the email, there’s a few things that you’re trying to communicate: why you’re contacting them, a little bit about how you’re going to help them, and your interest in the position.
Obviously you have some sort of interest since you’re applying, but you would be surprised at the number of cover letters I’ve seen where somebody didn’t even take the time to make sure they were attaching the right cover letter and it said, “I’m writing about your buyer position” when I was hiring for an analyst. Clearly they didn’t take the time. I’ve had people put the wrong company on the cover letter.
This might seem like a surprise, but it actually happens way more than you would think. Even those little pieces of getting things right goes an extra step to show that you’re interested in a role you’re applying for. I mentioned that there are three things that you want to convey in your letter. This does not need to be a long letter. It should not be a long letter. As a hiring manager – and I can speak for many other hiring managers who I’ve talked to about this topic as well – they are much more likely to read what you’ve written if you keep it short. If they open your cover letter or bring up the document on the computer and it’s three pages long, forget about it. If it’s one page, densely packed with text, forget about it. If it’s four or five sentences, okay.
I’ll read that. I’ve got a few seconds to read through a few sentences. Don’t take a lot of time in writing this. Don’t feel like you need to put everything in this cover letter. Unless there’s something specific that you’re asked to talk about in the cover letter, four to five sentences is all you’ll need. Let’s look at what those four to five sentences should contain. First, start out with a greeting: “Dear hiring manager”, “To whom it may concern”. I think a really nice touch is if you take the time to find out who the hiring manager is. This may or may not be possible. In some cases, you’re not going to be able to find it, but especially if the company’s smaller or you’re in a very specific niche or you’re connected to someone that told you about the position, you may be able to find out the person’s name. If you do, put it in there. Any time that that’s happened – and it’s been very infrequent in my experience – I know that candidate took some time to actually find out about the job.
They’re really interested. It tells me they’ve done a little bit of homework on what they’re applying for and that’s always a good thing to hiring managers. It’s so common for people to send out mass amounts of resumes that you don’t always know when candidates are really interested or if you’re just one of 50 other applications they might have sent out that day. If you can find the hiring manager’s name, great. If you can’t, don’t worry about it. Now, let’s get into the body of the letter. We’re going to break this down into four sections. The first section – one paragraph, one sentence: “I’m very interested in your open position for ______.” So, if you’re applying for an analyst, “I’m very interested in your open position for the analytics role.” You know how I mentioned that sometimes I have people that don’t pay attention? Pay attention here! I would much rather not have a cover letter than have one where someone didn’t take the time to make sure they put the right job title in.
Use the title that’s on the job posting. Put it in there. One sentence – easy, great, okay. Next paragraph and again one sentence: “My x years of experience in ______ make me a strong candidate for this role.” Put in how many years of experience you have. If you don’t have any, maybe you leave that off, but a lot of people – most people – are not applying to entry-level jobs. There’s certainly a group of people every year that are. So if you’re one of those, leave this off your cover letter. But if you have experience, mention it. “I have five years of experience in analytics research which makes me a strong candidate for this role.” Perfect. Boom. You’ve highlighted your top criteria, your one summation of why you’re a good candidate for the role.
Now, the next thing we want to do is direct them over to your resume. A lot of people will try to pull some key points from their resume and put them in the cover letter. But your cover letter doesn’t really need those reasons. You really want someone to go over to your resume and read all of your criteria there that you’ve put together for them so they can understand how you’re a good candidate. By pulling out a few key points, if for some reason those points don’t resonate with the person reading your cover letter, they’re not going to go look at your resume. You want to set it up in a way that immediately gets them to the content that you’ve put together to tell them why you’re the perfect fit for this role. Here’s what you’re going to say in that third sentence: “I’ve highlighted my key qualifications for this role as well as my career profile on the top of my resume.” It’s as simple as that. One sentence directing them over to your resume, letting them know, “Hey, I’ve even pulled out the most important pieces and put them at the top of my resume.” If you don’t have a resume that’s set up like that and you need some help with it, I’ve linked below to services I offer and training I offer to help you get the perfect resume.
Now, it’s time to close out the cover letter. And again – new sentence, last sentence: “I look forward to speaking with you about this position.” Simple as that. You don’t need to put anything else in it. Then put a salutation, so, “regards” and sign your name. Whether you’re writing a cover letter or this is an email cover letter, essentially, for a job application, these four sentences are all you need to make sure that you have a really professional cover letter that’s simple to understand. It’s clear to the hiring manager. It doesn’t waste more of your time than is needed, but it makes it available there in case they need it. I mentioned sometimes applications, especially if you’re emailing them, will ask you for something specific in the cover letter. If that’s the case, input that information after that third paragraph.
Before saying “I look forward to speaking with you about this position” go ahead and insert it there. I’ve seen jobs where people asked for your specific expertise in a certain area, if you could elaborate on that, or they ask you to answer a certain question in your cover letter. Put it there. Easy enough, simple enough. That’s really the only time that I would see there being a need for it to be a longer cover letter.
There you have it: a short, simple, sweet, and professional cover letter that will help you land the job interview. Now that you know how to write a great cover letter, have you mastered the other keys to landing a job? I’ve put together five critical pieces that will help you land your next job. I link to this below. You can get your free copy today. If you like this video, give it a thumbs up, share it with your friends, and subscribe to the channel. I look forward to seeing you in the next video.
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