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The Complete Guide to Cover Letters

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Cover letters. Think of them as that first handshake when you meet a potential business contact. They’re formal and brief, but a good one can make a powerful impression.

And yet cover letters are perhaps the most underrated part of the job application process. In fact, only 20% of resumes are submitted with a cover letter. So just by taking the time to write a cover letter, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage.

The good news is, we’ve got everything you need to know about cover letters--expert advice, samples and a cover letter builder – right here.

What Is a Cover Letter?

What Is a Cover Letter?

Cover Letters are a one page document that you use to introduce yourself to a potential employer, summarizing why you think you’d be a great fit for a specific job.

We emphasize the word “specific,” because in addition to being well-written, and communicating that you have the relevant skills, a cover letter is also a way to show employers that you are passionately interested in a particular job or company.

For this reason, to improve your chances of getting hired, make sure your cover letter refers to a specific advertised opening. If you aren’t certain there is a current opening but you would really love to work for a given company, your cover letter should express specific reasons why you would like to work for that company.

Why is a Cover Letter Important?

You may be thinking, “I have an amazing resume that clearly encapsulates my impressive education and work history, so why do I need a cover letter?”

Good question.

Your cover letter is your first impression. Think of it as meeting a potential business contact at a party. Your cover letter is that first handshake. It’s looking the other person in the eye and introducing yourself. First impressions matter, which is why at JobHero, we think your cover letter is every bit as important as your resume. It needs to accomplish two main goals.

  1. First , a cover letter has to convey something distinctive and memorable about you, so that the reader feels like you’ve succeeded at the first challenge, which is standing out from the competition.
  2. Second , your cover letter needs to clearly communicate that you understand exactly what the job requires and briefly encapsulate why you are qualified.

A cover letter is like the headline of a great advertisement that communicates the value you bring to a company. It’s great to express your passion, but don’t write exclusively about why you want the job or why the job would be good for you. Instead, focus on the needs of your audience: think about what their challenge is, and succinctly communicate why you would be great for a given role. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, talk less about what the role can do for you and more about what you can do for the role.

In short, a cover letter matters because it’s a quick way to communicate why you matter to a potential employer.

When to Write a Cover Letter and When Not to

When to Write a Cover Letter and When Not to

We’ll make this simple. When to use a cover letter? Always.

There are only three exceptions to this rule:

  1. If the job listing specifically says not to send a cover letter.
  2. If the job application is online and the format precludes the possibility of including a cover letter.
  3. If you’re in a rush and worried you may not have time to properly proofread, it’s better not to send any cover letter at all than something riddled with errors. But we have an even better solution: The JobHero Cover Letter Builder has automatic spell-check and pre-formatted options to help reduce the risk of errors.
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Tips for Writing a Successful Cover Letter

The ultimate goal of a cover letter is to make an employer want to look at your resume and schedule an interview. To accomplish that, keep the following cover letter tips in mind as you draft your cover letter.

STAY FOCUSED:

Your cover letter isn’t the right place to mention everything that makes you interesting. Cherry pick details from your resume and only highlight those facts that are closely connected to the skills and background the employer needs. Carefully read each job posting you apply for, and use some of the same language in your letter to emphasize your relevance to the position.

  • Cover Letters Should
  • Always accompany your resume.
  • Summarize and highlight key details about your work history and education.
  • Emphasize the relevance of your experience to the job for which you’re applying.
  • Inspire the reader to want to read your resume and meet you in person.
  • Use numbers and simple facts to reduce the more complex details included in your resume to some bold, memorable points.

    For example, while your resume might list a series of jobs you’ve held in a field related to the job you want, your cover letter should summarize that work history with one sentence, such as: "I’ve spent 12 years leading a team of 200 people, with annual budgets in excess $2 million dollars."

  • Cover Letters Should Not
  • Be a substitute for your resume.
  • Replicate all the information contained in your resume.
  • Be all words with no quantification of simple facts.
  • Sound formulaic or generic in any way.

Cover Letters in a Hurry: Should You Use a Template?

True, we said your cover letters should always feel specific and original and never generic or cookie-cutter. But let’s be honest: sometimes we all need a little help getting started.

A template can help you choose a structure that makes the most sense for you--and don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to customize these templates and make sure your personality comes across.

These templates are an easy way to help by-pass writer’s block and understand some of the different approaches you can take to craft a successful cover letter.

Professional Resources

You probably never thought there’d be so much useful information to learn about something as seemingly simple as writing a cover letter. And yet there’s more. JobHero has additional resources at your fingertips! Cover letter samples, and more resources are right here."

Learn More About How to Format a Cover Letter
Sample Cover Letters

Cover Letter Builder

Let JobHero’s Cover Letter Builder help you write your cover letter today!