Acing the job search isn’t just about having a solid resume. As a job seeker, your cover letter is an important part of your overall brand presence, and one of the best ways that you can tailor your application to fit the job you’re applying to.
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is typically a one-page (or shorter) introductory letter summarizing for a prospective employer why you are the best fit for the job. Often a job posting will request that candidates submit both their resume and cover letter as part of their application.
Why Do I Need a Cover Letter (and How is a Cover Letter Different Than a Resume)
While your resume should be strong enough to stand on its own, the cover letter serves as a platform to expand upon what’s in the resume and discuss your interest in that specific opportunity or company. It’s also a good place to add information that might not fit in the resume, such as additional projects, personal stories, or other personal qualities or attributes you want to get across.
A resume is designed to communicate your qualifications, experience, and accomplishments in a high-level view that you can then expand upon in the interview process. While your cover letter shouldn’t simply reiterate what’s already in the resume, you should speak to the most relevant experience and skillsets required for the role, and what personal attributes you bring to the table.
What Should I Write in a Cover Letter?
Your cover letter should immediately address the company and role you are applying to. While this may sound like common sense, keep in mind that recruiters and hiring managers are often reviewing resumes for a variety of roles. So be clear on which role you’re applying to.
Try to start your letter off with a “hook” – an attention-grabbing point or sentences that give a snapshot of why you’re a good potential fit.
Dear Ms. Detrick:
As an award-winning creative with 10 years of print and digital design background, I’m confident that I can bring value to the Senior Designer role at Company XYZ.
Summarize the skill sets and experience that you can offer the role, without copying word-for-word what’s already in the resume.
Throughout my career as a designer and project manager, I have produced compelling visuals and campaigns for brands in the healthcare, consumer products, retail, fashion, and technology. In my current role, I am part of a 5-person design team that has won multiple awards for the work we’ve produced for our clients.
Be sure to personalize the cover letter by discussing your interest in the role, and what makes you a good fit for that particular employer. Talk about the company, its culture, its customers and products, and how you can add value in each of those areas.
As someone with a personal passion for gaming and entertainment, I not only understand Company ABC’s products, but I can relate to your core customer and what appeals to them as a consumer. It excites me to work with a brand that is innovative, disruptive, and poised for growth.
If you are relocating or applying to a job as an out-of-state candidate, be sure to address this in the letter, noting your availability and prospective timeline to relocate if required.
Please note that while I am currently based in New York, I am actively in the process of relocating to the Los Angeles area. I can be available immediately to interview, and within 4 weeks to start in a new role.
Always close your cover letter with a call to action.
I look forward to discussing the opportunity in more depth. Please reach out to me with any questions, and thank you in advance for your consideration!
What Should I Leave Out of My Cover Letter?
While it may be tempting to address things like an employment gap or why a job ended in a cover letter, it’s best to stay away from any topics that detract from your overall message. Think of it this way – only include in the cover letter what you’re comfortable and confident speaking about in the interview process. Always keep it focused on your positive qualities, experience, and accomplishments, instead of trying to address potential red flags.
With that in mind, you should always be prepared to answer those kinds of questions in the interview process, such as why you were let go from a role, the reason you left your last job, or why there’s a year-long gap on your resume. But avoid using the cover letter (and resume) to draw extra attention to those things before your application has even been considered.
Who Should I Address the Cover Letter To?
Ideally, you want to address the cover letter to a specific person, instead of “To Whom It May Concern” which can sound antiquated. If that’s possible, include a broader introduction such as “Dear Leadership Team” or “Attention Creative Director”.
As a tip, do a search for the company’s hiring managers or recruiting staff on LinkedIn. Even if you don’t have the exact contact, it shows effort in tailoring your letter to the organization.
What if I’m Not Targeting a Specific Role in My Cover Letter?
If you’re not actively looking for opportunities, or the company you’re interested in has no immediate offerings, you can use the cover letter as more of an introductory letter. The goal is the same in that you want to communicate the experience, skills, and attributes that offer potential value to the company, without referencing a specific job posting.
With that in mind, you want to start your cover letter with a similar introduction:
Dear Ms. Detrick:
I am reaching out to introduce myself and express my interest in Company XYZ. I am an accomplished designer with over 10 years of print and digital experience. While I understand you’re not actively hiring a senior designer, I would love to remain on your radar if an opportunity opens that matches my skill set.
Let me tell you a little bit about myself.
Look here for cover letter samples to get you started!
The cover letter is a key part of your job search portfolio, and should reflect the same branding, messaging, and focus as your resume, with one exception.
The cover letter can be written in your own voice and tone, so let your personality come through a bit.
Highlight your personal attributes alongside your hard- and soft-skill and experience. What makes you a unique candidate for the role, and how will you add value to the organization and its culture?
Need help with your cover letter?
We craft impactful cover letters that highlight your most marketable experience, accomplishments, and skillsets. Reach out and we can discuss a package tailored to your career goals.