You’ve put the finishing touches on your resume, found a host of appealing job listings and are sitting down at your computer to apply. Then, you see it and your heart sinks.
*Cues horror film music*
They each require a cover letter.
With so many positions in mind — all requiring unique cover letters — you may be tempted to just give up rather than wrestle with the dreaded “To Whom it May Concern.”
Before you run screaming, here’s a guide to help you navigate the cover letter writing process.
Wait, does anyone still use cover letters anymore?
The cover letter has fallen out of favor among some recruiters and job applicants.
Forty-seven percent of those seeking positions said they didn’t include “a cover letter with their current or most recent job application,” while just 26% of recruiters said they think cover letters are crucial “in their decision to hire an applicant,” according to the 2017 Job Seeker Nation Study by Jobvite (with data collected by Zogby Analytics).
Still, there are plenty of jobs that require a cover letter, and you don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage by skipping it entirely. Here’s what you need to know:
Tailor it to the job you’re applying for
It can be tempting to use a one-size-fits all cover letter when applying to multiple jobs, but you should ditch the cookie-cutter approach.
Instead of describing the same achievements on each cover letter, show every recruiter that you really do understand how your experience could benefit their company if you’re brought on board.
In your cover letter, be sure to highlight the points that speak to the desired job experience they’re seeking, and explain how what you’ve done directly relates to the job description.
Ditch the weak introduction
You don’t know how long the recruiter will be willing to read over your cover letter, so make the top of it count.
So, if you had to choose between “Please consider me for your sales representative opening” and “Your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match to my three-year history as a top-ranked, multimillion-dollar producer,” there’s no contest, according to Monster.com.
So how do you write a strong cover letter introduction?
Be concrete, succinct and interesting. Give examples of your successes or name your contacts at the company, according to The Balance.com.
In other words, lead with your best foot forward.
Time is of the essence when it comes to job applications, and you don’t want the recruiter’s eyes to glaze over in an attempt to read through your letter.
When it comes to the perfect length, the perfect letter is between a half a page and a page long, according to Alison Green, author of the blog Ask a Manager.
She writes that recruiters’ preferences vary, but that “…the perfect length for a cover letter is the amount of space that it takes to explain why you’re an unusually strong candidate for the job aside from what’s on your resume,” Green writes.
Go beyond what’s on your resume
Recruiters can read your bullet points, but they don’t necessarily know how what you accomplished impacted your career — the cover letter is your opportunity to fill them in.
The Muse explains how to dive deeper into how the achievements on your resume have shaped you professionally.
“Instead of just repeating yourself (‘I was in charge of reviewing invoice disputes’), use your cover letter to describe additional details that you weren’t able to squeeze onto the single page of your resume: ‘By resolving invoice disputes, I gained a deep analytical knowledge — but more importantly, I learned how to interact calmly and diplomatically with angry customers.’ A cover letter gives you the freedom to use full sentences — instead of bullet points — so use them to expand upon your resume points and tell the story of why you’re the perfect fit for the company,” the publication says.
Submit it as a PDF file
You’ve worked hard to format that tab indent or bullet point layout just so — so why risk that hard work disappearing the minute your file gets converted from a .doc to a .docx on the hiring manager’s computer screen?
“Not every office computer can read .docx or .pages files, but virtually everybody can open a PDF file without any conversion,” Forbes reports. “File conversions are bad for two huge reasons. First, they are just as likely to not bother and move onto the next applicant. And, second, conversions can introduce formatting errors. Both are bad.”