In a job market that’s more competitive than ever, it’s critical that your cover letter stand out. With the advent of online job postings, you’re competing with a more global and wide-ranging group of people, so consider the content of your cover letter carefully. And never submit a resume without one—that’s a great way to be dismissed by a recruiter for lack of effort.
Here are some pointers on how to craft the perfect cover letter:
Use details to show how your experience is relevant
Make points in your cover letter that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Is it a marketing job? Specify the roles you’ve played and tasks you’ve undertaken that make you a qualified candidate.
If your cover letter looks like a template, the recruiter will likely feel you aren’t making an effort, and the letter probably won’t speak to why you’d be a great fit for the job you’re applying to.
Give it personality
Avoid sounding monotonous or boring in your cover letter; recruiters will assume you’re like that in person, too. Be excited about the position (but avoid using exclamation points), and be inspired by the work you would do for the company.
Sign the letter “I look forward to hearing from you” rather than “I hope to hear from you and that you think I am qualified for the role.” Assume you will hear from the company in your tone—otherwise they will sense your lack of confidence and question your qualifications.
Use proper spelling and grammar
The best way to turn off a recruiter is to use improper grammar or spelling. This says that you don’t have an eye for detail, that you don’t necessarily truly care to work at the company and that you’ll make the same kinds of mistakes when you come on board.
No one wants internal or client communications to be filled with errors; it’s bad business. To brush up on your grammar for free, check out EnglishGrammar101.com for online grammar lessons.
Allude to your network as it pertains to the job
Networking is a critical part of your job search today. If you’ve met someone within the company, reference that person and why they inspired you to apply. It helps even more if the person you’re submitting your resume to is someone you’ve met—tell them why you enjoyed meeting them and why you’d like to work with them. (Appealing to their ego doesn’t hurt!) You can network your way into the job without looking desperate.
It’s critical that your cover letter not be too long. Keep it concise and to the point. Recruiters read so many cover letters in a day they might only skim the really long ones. You want to be heard, so keep that cover letter tight.
Before sending the letter, read it over and put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. In a sea of competitive cover letters, is this a cover letter you’d be inspired to respond to?
Cara Aley is a freelance writer who writes about everything from recruitment strategies to doctor reputation management. She is currently VP of Operations for Two Degrees, a one-for-one food bar company.