This year has thrown a wrench in just about every plan imaginable. Everything from the way we shop to the way we work has undergone radical change thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and for job seekers, how to write a cover letter in 2020 is no exception.
At the outset of this tumultuous year, you may have had a picture-perfect career path laid out before you with opportunities galore, but then, a global health crisis came along and decimated it all. Now, everything in your life is upside down, and worst of all, certain aspects of finding a job have changed.
But, have no fear — things actually aren’t as different as you might think. Sure, you’ll need to approach writing a cover letter with a bit more finesse heading into 2021 than you would have this same time last year, but at the heart of it all, your cover letter will still address all of the ways that you are a standout candidate.
What to include in a cover letter
At its core, a cover letter addresses your ability to perform the duties outlined in a job description. It explains how the qualifications that you possess make you the perfect hire by describing what you can bring to the table in the most eloquent way possible.
Where your resume may leave certain details to a potential employer’s imagination, your cover letter is the place where you do your best to fill in any gaps. With all of the twists and turns of 2020, these gaps may be ever-present and harder to explain in certain scenarios.
Aside from the basic elements of a cover letter that an employer might want to see any other year, in 2020, hiring managers will want to hear more about how you’ve managed to stay resilient despite a world full of chaos. In other words: It’s OK to address the coronavirus-sized elephant in the room.
Your ability to explain just how you’ve handled the stress of it all here is key. But that “how” will look different depending on your individual circumstances.
How to format your cover letter
The general format for how to write a cover letter in 2020 remains pretty much on par with the formatting you’re likely familiar with from years past that include the items listed here:
- Introduction: Polite greeting that addresses the hiring manager or recruiter directly
- Body paragraph #1: Who you are and why you’re passionate about this job
- Body paragraphs #2 & #3: Details about your experience and what you can bring to the table
- Body paragraph #4: Call to action and follow up directives
- Signature: Sign off with a respectful closing and your name
While you don’t want your cover letter to run more than a page in length, some circumstances may dictate the need for another paragraph if you have a lot of ground to cover in one particular area and need to dedicate a few sentences to one topic.
What is included within each body paragraph will depend heavily on the job that you’re applying to, where you are in your career path, and any specifics that an employer has asked for within their job description. You’ll also want to tailor your writing to discuss any specific needs, skills, and circumstances that 2020 has shone a light on, but again, the specifics of this will truly depend on your individual circumstances.
Including your contact information hasn’t gone by the wayside either, just make sure to double-check your email address, since digital communication is now the preferred way for most employers to communicate with new hires.
How to know what to write in your cover letter
If you’re drawing a complete blank in your mind trying to come up with the words to explain why someone should hire you, it can help to read through examples similar to the situation you’re in. It is especially helpful when trying to explain how the trials of 2020 may impact your ability to execute your professional skills.
For jobseekers going through a career change, transitioning from self-employed into a company role, who have a gap in employment, are seeking a management role, are a recent graduate, or are only interested in remote work, the following examples may provide a bit of inspiration to draw from.