Cover Letter Tips, Advice & Suggestions with Examples

Want to write a professional cover letter on your own, check this tutorial. It reveals all the secret tips and techniques which professionals use to create a winning and eye catching cover letter in easy language. Learn how to convert your good cover letter in the best cover letter by following some proven tricks.

Cover letter is the piece of information which you provides with your resume while transmitting it to an employer. Regardless how professionally your resume is written, it cannot make you an interview candidate unless it is viewed by the employer. Whether an employer will view your resume or not is highly depend on the cover letter. A survey conducted by shrm.org states that 76% employers make their decision to view or not a candidate’s resume solely based on the cover letter.

A well written and informative cover letter can grab the recruiter’s attention, raise his curiosity, and stimulate immediate interest in your resume. By contract, a poorly written cover letter can distract employer from viewing your resume.

Before we discuss what makes a cover letter good or bad, let’s quickly understand how a cover letter influences an employer to view the attached resume.

First impression is the last impression

Whether a cover letter will work as a booster or as a blocker in your job-hunting campaign is purely depends on how it is prepared and presented. Think cover letter as a presentation layer in which your resume is wrapped. Regardless how good a resume is, if packaging and presentation is not good, it’s not going to be view. Let’s understand it with examples.

Example 1

Bob went in a cosmetic shop to purchase a perfume. There he found a lot of varieties of perfumes from several companies. So he selected few attractive perfumes and read the description available on their packages.

cover letter example

Based on description, he selected the perfume which matched with his requirement.

Example 2

Bob as a recruiter posted a job vacancy in a popular job site to hire an employ for his office. Next day he received hundreds of emails with attached resumes for the job. So he selected few emails based on the visual appearance of cover letter and read them. Based on the information provided in cover letter, he downloaded the resumes which matched with his requirement. Form downloaded resumes he finalized the candidates for interview.

cover letter example

Have you noticed any similarity in both examples?

In both cases first selection was based on presentation.

A good presentation can sell a bed thing vice versa a bed presentation can block a good thing from selling. This simple and universal sales department principle applies in HR department also. Our resume is just like a product which will attract the customer (employers) only if it is wrapped with an attractive cover letter.

So, how can we make a cover letter impressive and attractive?

We can make a cover letter impressive and attractive by improving its visual appearance.

Visual appearance a game changer

A popular report says a recruiter usually spend an average 6 seconds on each cover letter. You may wonder how a person can read an average one page cover letter in just 6 seconds. Actually he does not read the entire cover letter. He only performs a quick scan to decide whether he should read the entire cover letter or just to pick the next one from the pile. Let’s understand this approach with a simple example from our daily life.

How do we read the newspaper? Do we read it entirely?
No, instead of reading the entire newspaper we only read the news which has something interesting for us.
And how long do we take to find the interesting news from each page of newspaper?
Most of us can easily select it in less than 5 seconds.

Which factor helps us and recruiters in finding the interesting news and cover letters?

It’s the visual appearance of news and cover letter which help us and recruiters in finding and selecting the appropriate news and cover letter.

In newspaper, several techniques are used to grab the reader’s attention on a specific news or section. With a little customization these techniques can also be used in improving the visual appearance of a cover letter.

Tips to improve the visual appearance of a cover letter
  • Always align text to the left.
  • Keep line length approximate 5 inches.
  • Use short paragraphs. Long paragraphs overwhelm to the eyes.
  • Use indent sections for key points.
  • To highlight a word or a phrase use upper case letters.
  • If a number arrives anywhere in sentence except the starting of line, use it in numeral format such as 10, 20, 24, etc. But if line starts with number, use it in text format such as Ten, Twenty, Twenty four, etc.
  • Try to keep your cover letter in one page. But if second page is necessary, end first page in the middle of a sentence to encourage the reader to view the next page.

While formatting makes sure you don’t use any program or platform specific formatting. In following section we will discuss the standard and universal formatting tips along with the disadvantage of using the program or platform specific formatting.

Formatting cover letter

Formatting cover letter with rich text tools or using the default setting of word processor or email account while creating a cover letter may impact the curiosity of recruiter in your cover letter negatively. Unless your recruiter uses the same email client program or word processor in reading your cover letter which you used in creating the cover letter, formatting will not work as expected. Let me show you an example of this.

Situation 1

Following figure shows how a candidate’s cover letter was formatted in his email client program with rich text tools.

cover letter formatted with rich text tool

Following figure shows how this cover letter appeared in recruiter’s email program.

cover letter example

Have you noticed the differences between both cover letters?

Formatting done by the candidate is either altered or replaced by some unusual characters. After alteration and replacement this cover letter is looking unprofessional and confusing. For example bold, Italic and underline text formatting were altered and replaced by the asterisk signs which are not only confusing the reader but also making the appearance of this cover letter completely unprofessional.

Situation 2

Following figure shows the same cover letter formatted with generic formatting

cover letter genric formatting

Following figure shows how this cover letter appeared in recruiter’s email program

cover letter example 2

With generic formatting cover letter is not only looking professional but also presenting its contents clearly.

Cover letter formatting tips
  • Always use simple plain text format instead of Rich Text or HTML format.
  • Always use the most common font type such as Sans Serif, Arial, Verdana, etc.
  • Always use consistent and standard font size such as 10, 12 or 14px.
  • Always align text to the left.
  • Do not use the center or justify alignment.
  • Do not format text with bold, italic, underline, small dashes, long dashes, Subscript, Superscript or any other special formatting tool.
  • Use asterisk (*), plus (+) and greater than (>) sings for listing the items in list.
  • Use space bar for indent instead of tab key.
  • Always specify the format in which attached resume is prepared

Use a personalized cover letter

Usually candidates create a common cover letter and use it with every application by simply replacing the recipient’s name. Do not use this approach. It shows that you are only interested in getting job, regardless in which company you get it.

In current economy while each job vacancy attracts several jobseekers, recruiters usually prefer the candidates who are specifically interested in their job and company. Recruiters use cover letter to judge the candidate’s seriousness about their job and company.

Tips to personalize the cover letter
  • If you know the name of recruiter, use it in greeting instead of sir or madam.
  • Avoid using standard lines such as "I want to work for your company". These lines are meaningless for recruiter.
  • Briefly explain why you are the perfect match for the advertised job.
  • Mention the advertised job and the company name in cover letter.

Highlight your specialty in cover letter

Highlight the advantage which your recruiter may gain by hiring you instead of someone else. If you have any special skill or quality which may set you apart from other candidates, describe that in a summarized impressive statement such as "extensive experience of network troubleshooting", "solid track record of delivering result in time", "won the sales person of year award three times in a row", etc.

Be careful while selecting specialty from resume. Your resume will provide all the information to your interviewer when he will need it. Select only the skills and qualities, which you think, can give you an advantage over others. Don’t regurgitate the resume in summarized from. Let the resume do its job.

Be creative with opening lines in cover letter

Usually candidates use a standard and common opening line such as "In response to your ad in Time Ascent Newspaper, I have enclosed my resume for your consideration".

Well… there is nothing wrong is this type of opening. But at same time there is nothing new in it. To stand out from your job competitors, you have to be creative. Choose some unique and descriptive opening for your cover letter. Let’s understand it with an example.

An opening with standard outline

Dear Sir,

In response to your ad in Time Ascent newspaper, I have enclosed my resume with this mail for your consideration. I have just completed my MCA and willing to work in your company. I also have part time working experience in web programming.

Same opening with creative outline

Dear Ashok;

You are looking for a MCA fresher to work in a developer team. I am a MCA graduate with experience. My resume, which is enclosed with this mail, details my background and experience.

Both opening convey the same message but in different style. First opening uses a standard outline while second opening uses a creative outline.

Second opening not only makes your cover letter different from your competitors but also grabs reader’s attention immediately.

Use the cover letter which reflects your personality

Some candidates prefer to take the services of a professional resume writer in creating cover letter and resume. Taking help from a professional writer is a good choice if you cannot express your own idea in effective language. A professional writer can express your ideas in better way.

The only downside of this approach is that usually professional writers create a letter which reflects your personality in their tone using stuffy, complex and stilted language. If your cover letter and resume are written by a professional writer, check them again and ask yourself following questions: -

  • Are you comfortable with the used wording?
  • Can you communicate in same level of language?
  • Do you have all ability and specialty written in cover letter and resume?

Your cover letter and resume should reflect your personality not the personality of the professional who created them. After all it’s you who is going to face the interview based on cover letter and resume.

Focus on the requirement of your prospective employer

The most common mistakes a candidate makes in his cover letter and resume that he focus only about him. For example, lines starting with following phrases can be found in every second or third cover letter and resume.

  • I want a job….
  • I am a …..
  • My job objective is….
  • I want to work in……

Your cover letter and resume explain everything which you want from your prospective job and company but what about the company’s requirement.

An employer never cares what a candidate wants. He only cares what his business wants. If you do not fit in his business requirement, you will never get an interview call from him.

Always highlight your objective, summary, experience and qualification from employer’s prospective. Use the words and phrases which explain how your skills, strengths, experiences, qualifications and talents can benefit the company, organization, firm, department, supervisor or team with whom will you work.

Few more tips to make cover letter even better

Never hide any truth from your recruiter. Misleading and lying in cover letter and resume are neither accepted by the interviewer nor tolerated by the company even if you get hired.

It’s common practice to refer a company or an organization by its initial or business name. Don’t use this approach in cover letter and resume. Use the complete and correct name of the company. You may check company’s website for its correct name.

Do not use poor salutation like "To whom it may concern". Use the salutation which states that cover letter has been sent to a specific person or department for a specific reason.

Check the spelling and grammar of cover letter and resume at least three times before mailing them.

Do not lose the heart

If you haven’t received a single interview call or received a few interview calls, even if you have sent several resumes with cover letters, don’t lose your heart. Getting a job in current market condition is the toughest task. Be experiential with your cover letter and resume. If the cover letter you used, did not work well, try another one. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged, it may take some time longer than your expectations. Motivate yourself to be positive.

That’s all for this tutorial and good luck for your job campaign. If you like this article, please do share it with your friends through your favorite social platform.

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