How to craft the perfect cover letter

You’ve found your ideal job, updated your resume, and finished the online application — but one piece is missing …

Dun, dun, duuuun. The dreaded cover letter. We understand that crafting the perfect cover letter can be a painstaking process, which is exactly why we’ve summed up all the essential elements (and provided handy examples!).

Follow our guide, and you’re sure to make the hiring manager smile in delight and dive into your application.

The address

Tempted to address your cover letter to “Dear Sir“? Think again. Hiring managers are people too. Nothing turns them off like a generic letter that was blasted out to dozens of other companies.

Read the application instructions carefully; if no name is provided, try a Google search to find the hiring manager’s name or the name of the supervisor for the position you’re applying to. Still no luck? Simply use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Hiring Team”.

Keep it formal (you don’t have the job yet), and use Mr. or Ms.

The first sentence

This is your gotcha moment. The opening line should make your application stand out from a stack of hundreds or thousands.

Do you have a connection to the company? Say so! For example:

“I had the pleasure of meeting Wildfire CEO John Mbire at a networking event in Nairobi; he suggested I contact you about Wildfire’s senior account manager opening.

Now it’s time to establish yourself as the best possible candidate for the job — remember, you want them to keep reading.

“I’m uniquely qualified for this opportunity as a professional account manager with more than 10 years of customer service experience at both startups and multinational corporations.”

Okay, you’ve made the bold claim (make sure it’s true). Now you’ve got to back it up.

Connect your skills to the company’s needs

This is where you connect the dots for the recruiter. Remember, their eyes glazed over long ago scanning application after application. Do them a favor and clearly show how your qualifications perfectly align with the job description.

First, (this should be obvious) read the job description carefully. Pick out three or four requirements that you meet. That’s what you’re going to work with. Brainstorm several duties or accomplishments from your work history that illustrate how you meet these requirements. Got them down? Great!

Now, in the second paragraph, you’re going to sum up those stellar accomplishments and link them to the job requirements.

Back to our example …

Wildfire is looking for a senior account manager with the following skills:

  • Five years of account management experience
  • Must learn quickly in fast-paced environments while not compromising customer care
  • Must be a self-starter
  • Experience managing teams and other account managers
  • Project management experience is preferred. The senior account manager will be responsible for rolling out new initiatives and training programs.

Let’s show them what we’re made of. Remember, we need to lay out our relevant experience and then tie that into what Wildfire is looking for.

“During my five years as an account manager at Spitfire, I managed 200 accounts and acted as the primary liaison between each client and his or her customer service team. Having also worked for two startups, I understand the necessity of balancing speed with a high-touch customer experience and taking the initiative—experiences I believe would translate well to Wildfire.”

Now we want to add one more paragraph on our work experience to really drive the point home. After all, we’re perfect for this job, right?

“At Spitfire, I also managed five junior account managers and instituted a training program to develop their skill sets — all five were promoted to account manager status within two years of starting the program. I also introduced Spitfire’s Account Manager of the Month program to award top-performing account managers and encourage excellence among my team. I’m confident these experiences have prepared me to excel as a senior account manager at Wildfire.”

Seal the deal

This is the part where you want to lock down the offer. By this point the hiring manager is doing a happy dance behind his desk. He needs to get in touch with you! How to do that?

Don’t make him dig for your contact details.

“Thank you for your time and consideration. If you need any additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email address] or [phone number]. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

Don’t miss this last VERY, VERY important step.

Now, you weren’t really going to waste all that hard work by not proofreading, right? For many hiring managers, a grammatical error or a typo can be the kiss of death for your candidacy.

So check your cover letter and then recheck it. Read it out loud and have a writing-savvy friend read it too (you can always return the favor later).

Are you confident that the writing is clean and the content compelling? Okay! It’s time to send away.

If you’re still having trouble, never fear! Check out this handy resume-writing guide from The Muse. Or browse through cover letter examples here, here, or here.

Now getting writing! You’ve got a hiring manager to impress and a job to land.

By @laureneveritt

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