How to write a cover letter in today’s digital age
With more and more job applications being submitted online, you might be wondering whether it’s still necessary to write a cover letter. Do hiring managers even read them? Is it worth the time and effort to write them?
The answer is “it depends.” Some online job applications do not even give you a way to attach a cover letter. If that is the case, then you don’t need to write one. Other online applications make it optional to attach a cover letter. In those cases, we recommend writing one. Even though it is optional, it is still a good idea to write one, because it shows the employer that you are serious about the job. Skipping the cover letter might suggest that you are the type of employee who would cut corners and only do the bare minimum.
Even though writing cover letters can be a hassle, there is a bright side. Cover letters give you an extra opportunity to market yourself. And writing a good cover letter can set you apart from the competition. Here are some tips for writing cover letters in today’s competitive environment:
1. Customize the cover letter for each application
Writing a cover letter is not a “one size fits all” process. You should not use the same cover letter for every application. You will want to tailor your letter depending on what each specific job posting is looking for. This shows the hiring manager that you truly studied the job posting and can explain why you are the best candidate for the job.
2. Use keywords
Just like in resume-writing, it’s important to optimize your cover letter with keywords related to the job posting. The cover letters may or may not be scanned by the applicant tracker systems, and if they are, the right keywords could help get your application noticed. Learn more about optimizing both your resume and your cover letter for applicant tracking systems here.
3. Don't rehash your resume
A cover letter serves a different purpose from your resume, so you should not simply re-list the information in your resume. While your resume lists your relevant education and experience, your cover letter should summarize your strengths and explain how you will benefit the employer. To do this, choose just two or three experiences from your resume, and summarize how they demonstrate the strengths you’re going to bring to the job.
4. Keep it short and simple
Cover letters should be no longer than one page. As a rule of thumb, aim for 3 to 4 paragraphs with 1 to 3 sentences per paragraph:
Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself and why you are applying for the job
Paragraph 2: Give an example of your education or work experience that demonstrates your strengths and makes you qualified for the job
Paragraph 3: Review your most impressive qualities and strengths
Paragraph 4: Thank you and conclusion
5. Link your cover letter to you LinkedIn account
LinkedIn can be a great supplement to your job application. If you have a strong LinkedIn profile and a fair number of connections, you should include your LinkedIn URL in the “contact” section of your resume and cover letter. If you haven’t created a profile yet, what are you waiting for? Learn about creating a LinkedIn profile here.
6. Review and proofread
Whenever you try to edit something that you wrote, it’s hard to the mistakes. It’s always best to have a fresh set of eyes look at your cover letter and resume. Try making an appointment with your Career Services department. One of the representatives can help review your job application and give you some pointers. If you don’t have a career services advisor, then ask a trusted friend or family member to read through your cover letter for you.
With these tips in mind, we hope you can improve your process of writing cover letters. With a little persistence, you will find that it gets easier every time. Good luck with your job search!
The Harris Casel Institute offers career-focused training programs for adults in the Melbourne, Florida region. Learn more about Harris Casel today.