The year is 2020, but the same questions remain: Should you send a cover letter with your resume? Does anyone even read cover letters anymore?
The thing is, when you are applying for a job, you only have one shot to present yourself as the best candidate.
Why rely solely on cold facts from your resume when you can add more information, connect with an employer through a story about your achievements and skyrocket your chances of being invited to an interview?
The amazing thing is that all of that can be accomplished with a single-page cover letter.
Your cover letter is a place where you can show your passion for the position and the company, and highlight your most relevant qualifications, achievements and successes.
On top of that, cover letters are and always will be a sign of motivation. Trust us, not everyone will research the company and then write a compelling text about why they are a perfect match to the company’s needs.
Many candidates are so reluctant to do it that they avoid applying for any jobs that require the submission of a cover letter - even if their career depends on it.
That’s why a cover letter is an obvious sign of your motivation. And motivation will always be in style.
Let us make this task easier for you.
Here you are going to learn:
How to write a perfect cover letter that actually gets read by employers
How to format a cover letter to make your application top-notch
What to do before you send your cover letter
Additionally, you’ll get a cover letter template. Just replace the keywords and your cover letter will be ready in no time. If you are in hurry and this is the thing you are looking for, jump to the end of the post.
Content: How to write a perfect cover letter
A cover letter should complement the content of your resume.
In a concise, straightforward way, you should put your skills and experience in the context of the job you’d like to apply for and convince the employer that you are the best candidate out there.
Be careful, all that should be done in 300-350 words.
Considering the limited space, a cover letter is not a place to duplicate content from your resume.
It is, however, a place to build your brand, position yourself as an expert, add value to your application and express things that cannot be added to a resume, such as your motivation for applying, the story behind your most impressive achievements or the reasons why you want to work for this company.
To do so, here is the proven structure that should be followed:
Start with a greeting. It can seem silly, but this part sets the tone of your cover letter and can easily be a deal-breaker, so you need to do it right.
Greetings to avoid: Do not use ‘To Whom It May Concern’ or ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ – they are obsolete, unnatural and way over-used. Some hiring managers stop reading a cover letter as soon as they see one of those two phrases, so avoid them.
Address personally: Try to address your letter to the hiring manager directly. If no name is listed with the posting, research the name of the department director, recruiter, or other contact associated with the position via LinkedIn.
Or: If you can't find a name, start the letter with ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or ‘Dear XYZ Team’.
But don’t: Don’t combine too many options starting your cover letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam/Hiring Manager/Mister/Miss’. It makes you look indecisive and unconfident. We just wanted to mention this, because we have seen it - sadly, more than once.
2. Intro section
Grab the reader's interest with your opening paragraph. This part should be a sneak-peek at the expertise and knowledge you can bring to the table.
To make it right, in one or two sentences you should:
tell them who you are
summarize your experience
and express your enthusiasm for the role.
For example, you could say:
‘As a performance manager with four years of experience in managing the team and exceeding targets each quarter, I was excited to see your advertisement for regional performance director.’
It grabs attention more effectively than:
‘I am writing to apply for the role of regional performance director, which was advertised on the XYZ job board.’
It will also set you apart from other candidates, as you will have an opening sentence that differs from 97.6% of other cover letters.
3. Body (Spoiler alert: This is where you win them over!)
This is the most important part of your cover letter.
It consists of two to three short paragraphs where you answer two main questions:
What experience, skills and knowledge do you have that is, of course, relevant to the job?
How does your experience, skills and knowledge add value to the company you want to work for and to the job you are applying?
Showing that you have done your research about the company is vital for this section.
Demonstrate your knowledge of the organization's current situation and how your background, interests, and experience can contribute or help them resolve problems. The best way to do this is to highlight your achievements, as they are the best evidence of your abilities.
This is a section that will set you apart from other candidates.
The two best things you can do here are:
Include numbers to take your cover letter to the next level. They effectively grab attention and make it easier for readers to understand the impact of your actions. So, let the numbers speak for themselves.
Put your achievements in the spotlight by creating a short bullet pointed list of two to three key achievements.
So, instead of this:
"I have increased the size and sales levels of my client base in every position I have held, which in turn has increased the revenues and profits of my employers. I want to bring the same success to the account position you have posted on your Website."
‘As a Performance Manager, I have increased the size and sales levels of my client base resulting in:
Increased unit sales from $2 million to more than $5 million yearly.
Expanded client portfolio by 48%, from having 55 clients in 2017 to 81 clients in 2018
Improved client satisfaction score from 6.1 NPS to 8.5 NPS
Seeing that your company is currently growing and expanding their activities across the region, based on my previous experience, I am confident that I can bring the same success to your regional performance director position.’
And that is how you create an exciting cover letter that employers actually read.
5. Closing paragraph
Finally, summarize what you've written.
Restate your interest in the position and interview. For example, a good closing paragraph could be:
'I am confident that my experience and skills would make me a great fit for the position of the XYZ position. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my application in more detail.'
Additionally, express your appreciation for the hiring manager's time and consideration. The final greeting can be “Sincerely”, “Best”, or “Best regards."
Formatting: How to format a cover letter?
Unlike resumes where the perfect length is not set in stone and depends on different factors, a cover letter shouldn’t be longer than one page. If you aimed at 300-350 words of tailored content, this shouldn’t be a problem.
In terms of a layout, resumes and cover letters both need to be visually appealing. A cover letter must look like a polished, carefully crafted and well-structured professional document as well.
To wow employers and come across as a motivated, professional and detail-oriented candidate, make the formatting consistent throughout all documents you are submitting. As cover letters are typically sent along with resumes, it means those two documents should have a matching format.
If your resume is already aligned with resume-formatting best practices, simply copy the same style.
Copy the same header and footer. Apply the same font style and size in both documents – both for the body text and for headings. The same works for the white space – apply the same spacing between rows and margins as you have applied in your resume. Make sure you have enough white space that makes the document easy on the eye.
If your cover letter looks cluttered and you need to change the font style or other formatting elements, go back to your resume and do the same to have complementary documents.
In case you need to re-format both documents, here are some actionable tips that can help:
A. Font style
Select a professional, readable font. Avoid too complex, unprofessional or hard-to-read fonts.
Here is a short list of best and worst resume fonts:
Best cover letter fonts: Calibri, Arial, Corbel, Cambria, Georgia, Source Sans Pro/Light
Worst cover letter fonts: Comic Sans, Book Antiqua, or any cartoonish or handwriting font styles
Another factor in making your words highly readable is setting an appropriate font size. Generally, you should stay between 10 and 12 points.
Additionally, if you want to highlight some information, apply bold font. Don’t underline it, as underlining hurts the readability of the text.
B. Bullet points To break the monotony of the text, include two or three bullet points to describe and highlight your achievements. It’s a visual trick that will make the most impressive part of your cover letter more eye-catching.
C. White space
Last, but not least, the element that contributes to readability of your cover letter is the amount of white space - an area of your document that remains unused when separating sections and paragraphs of text.
Lack of sufficient white space can make your cover letter look cluttered and disorganized, whereas too much can leave it feeling bare and lacking in content.
So, to make a cover letter easy on the eye, it’s important to achieve the right balance between white space and content.
Pay attention to:
Spacing between rows: If your cover letter looks crammed, increase the spacing between lines from 1.0 pt to at least 1.15 pt. The latter makes it less cluttered without taking up too much valuable space.
Spacing between paragraphs: Instead of having a jammed-packed block of text, cover letters should have a clear structure with four to five distinctive paragraphs. The easiest way to create it is to increase spacing between the paragraphs to 1.5. Or you can simply add an empty row between two sections.
Margins: Margins (white space around the content) will depend on the amount of text you have. It should be between 0.5’’ to 1’’. Play around with it until you get a layout that looks the best.
Alignment: The most common recommendation is to align your text to the left.
An alternative solution is to justify it (align both to the left and right distributing your text evenly in line between margins). This depends on your preferences. The only option that needs to be ruled out is centering the whole content – it’s OK for headings, but not for the body of a cover letter.
What else to do before you send it?
Read your resume out loud. Cover letters usually require a lot of editing, copy-pasting and re-organizing sentences a million times. This can inevitably lead to some oversights. Reading your cover letter out loud helps you to make sure that the content is correct, and that it flows smoothly and sounds natural.
Let someone proofread it. Give your cover letter to someone else who can proofread it for you. A proofreading-buddy is your 2-factor authorization for job applications. After working on your cover letter for a while, you cannot see your own mistakes anymore. Since spelling, grammar or punctuation errors are not acceptable, you need to share it with someone to make sure your cover letter is safe to send.
Save in the proper format. Make sure you have saved your cover letter in a format requested by the employer. The most common formats are .docx or .pdf. If the employer hasn’t specified the format, save your cover letter as a PDF file to preserve the formatting, regardless of the operating system someone is using.
Name appropriately. Name your cover letter professionally. Don’t send it as ‘Cover letter - final Company X FINAL v7’. They don’t need to know how many times you edited it. Instead, save it as ‘Name Surname_cover letter’.
Now the best part: *THE TEMPLATE*
Just replace the underlined keywords or sentences and you'll have a cover letter that works for you!
Dear Mrs Smith,
As a CFO’s Personal Assistant with 2 years of experience in administration at a Fortune 500 fashion retail company, I was excited to see the advertisement for an Executive Assistant position within Company X. Being well-experienced in diary and travel management for a C-level executive, I believe that my expertise in administrative and supporting roles, as well as my personal characteristics, make me a strong candidate for this position.
In my current position, I am managing administrative and operational tasks on behalf of a CFO. This includes diary management with focus on productivity, organizing both domestic and international travels, office work administration, and organization of corporate meetings as well as small events (up to 75 people).
During my employment with Marks & Spencer, I have achieved exceptional results, including:
Improving a file documentation process, which was shared with 26 personal assistants across the business helping them save 4 hours per week and saving company $36,000 on overtime payments
Finding optimal travel arrangements, which resulted in $24,000 in savings solely in 2019
On top of that, I organize a monthly PA meeting which has improved cooperation and communication between Personal Assistants and consequently led to more efficient covers in absences.
Seeing that your company is currently recruiting for a number of personal/executive assistants, if I would be honored with an opportunity to step into this role, I believe I would be able to liaise with the new group of peers with the same success and optimize working processes in a similar manner.
On a personal level, I pride myself in being meticulous in my approach to work. At the same time, by having strong communication skills and being constantly focused on others, I am able to understand their needs and build successful work relationships with colleagues on all levels of seniority.
I am confident that my experience and skills would make me a great fit for the position of the Executive Assistant. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my application in more detail.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
A well-crafted cover letter sent with your resume can give you a competitive advantage. When done properly, a cover letter shows the employer that you're the right person for the job.
Your cover letter should have four main parts: greeting, intro paragraph, body and closing section.
It’s important to showcase your skills by describing and quantifying specific achievements. Connect them with the company’s current situation to show you have done your research on them and you know how you can add value.
Match the formatting with the style of your resume. Make sure that the font is professional and readable, that you have enough of white space between rows and around content and that achievements are highlighted in bullet points.
Get your cover letter proofread, save it in the right format, name it professionally and send it along your resume.
Do you have any questions about your cover letter? Not sure if your cover letter tells enough about your skills and experience? We’d love to help you out! Send us a message. Or if you prefer having a chat, book a FREE conversation with our career coach and get all your questions answered in 30 minutes.