How to Write a Cover Letter: The Complete Guide

By Talentwolf

Many Wall Street Financiers think they've found the best cover letter ever but the reality is there's no single "best" way to write your letter.

Let's look at some things your letter should include, some things it shouldn't, and how to make it work for the position you're applying for.

Why Your Cover Letter Is Important

Your cover letter should make you memorable to the person reading it. There's a good chance they're reading a stack of letters from many applicants and most of them are pretty similar.

Make yours stand out so they'll stop and read it.

Look at it this way - your resume presents the facts about your skills, education, experience, and goal. Your cover letter tells a story about why the company should hire you.

Stories are a powerful sales technique and what is your cover letter's main objective? To sell the reader on why they should hire you.

How to Write a Cover Letter

Your cover letter should include details about your skills and experience as they relate to the requirements of the job you're applying for. Curate that information so it's directly relevant to the position.

Anything that isn't directly related shouldn't go in your cover letter. You can include it on your resume if you think it might be of interest to the company but stay on track in your letter.

Before you write your letter, do some research to learn as much as you can about the company. Your letter should tell them why you want to work there and being able to talk about that using facts about the company is more effective than making general, vague statements.

You should write your letter in an appropriate tone for the company you're applying to. Read their website, ads, brochures, and any other information you can find to get a feel for their "voice". Write your letter with a similar style.

Use strong, action-oriented words in your letter. This is especially true for the verbs and adjectives you use to describe yourself and your experience.

For example, instead of saying "I'm interested in a position with your company and would like to discuss it further" try something like "I'm excited to join your company and would love to meet face-to-face to see if I would be a good fit."

Treat your cover letter like it's a sales letter with you as the "product" for sale. If the company hires you, they'll pay you a salary. Convince them that paying you that money will get them an even higher return from the work you'll do.

Close Your Letter with a Strong Call-to-Action

After delivering a sales pitch, the next step is usually to ask for the sale. Your cover letter should do the same thing by including a call-to-action at the end.

This section gives the reader a reason to contact you and may even tell them what you'd like them to do next.

For example, your call-to-action might be something like "I'd love to meet face-to-face to discuss how my skills and experience will benefit your company. Please contact me through one of the methods above to set up a meeting."

Sample Cover Letter Format

Your cover letter should use a simple structure. Make it easy to read by keeping it succinct and leaving plenty of whitespace on the page. If the reader faces a page filled with long paragraphs and dense text, they might decide it's not worth the effort.

The following structure is the ideal way to lay out your letter:

  • Introduction
  • Examples of your relevant experience and how it will benefit the company
  • Examples of your relevant skills and how they'll benefit the company
  • Conclusion
  • Call to Action

The style of the letter, such as fonts, layout, and page design, will vary from one company to another. If you're applying for a position with a prestigious law firm, your letter will look quite different than it would for a video game company, for example.

Proofread Your Letter

It's critical to proofread your letter before sending it. You want to be sure there are no spelling errors, grammar errors, or awkward sections.

Ideally, let it sit for a while after you write it. Looking at it with fresh eyes after you've had some time away will help you find errors. If you proofread it immediately after writing it, you may not see the mistakes as easily.

A trick that can help you proofread your letter is to read it out loud, either to someone else or in a mirror. Sometimes certain wording may seem fine when you read it but if you try to say it out loud, it can sound awkward or hard to follow.

If you find yourself stumbling over some sections, go back and rework them to be more clear.

Things to Avoid In Your Letter

What you leave out of your cover letter is as important as what you include. In general terms, don't jam more detail into it than you need. Stay away from irrelevant details and information that's dated or unnecessary.

For example, you may have 25 years of experience in your field but you probably don't need to get into detail about every position you've held over those two-and-a-half decades. Include the fact that you have 25 years of experience, but stick to recent and relevant skills and experience.

You don't have to get into much detail about your education either. That information will be in your resume but even then, it may not be as important as you think. You don't necessarily need a degree to get hired.

You should also stay away from over-used words and phrases. Some of them are unnecessarily wordy and others are probably in 90 percent of the letters the recruiter reads.

Some examples of these types of words and phrases include:

  • Please feel free
  • A significant amount
  • Self-starter
  • Detail-oriented
  • Born leader

Humor is another thing to avoid in most cases. It can be tough to convey in writing, when the reader doesn't have the opportunity to judge your body language. Rather than taking the chance that it will fall flat or, worse, offend the reader, avoid it in the first place.

Who Should You Send Your Cover Letter To?

Once you've written your cover letter, getting it in the hands of the right people is the next step. You can find recruiters online or in local ads but how do you know if they're going to be able to help you find the right job?

Talentwolf can help. We connect job seekers and employers with recruiters around the country and those recruiters get rated and reviewed by people who work with them. This makes it easy for you to find highly-rated recruiters in your area.

Visit our site today to create your profile and get started on the path to your new career.