The purpose of a cover letter is to present key aspects of your skills and experience, enticing the employer to read your resume. Cover letters provide an opportunity to demonstrate how you fit with a specific job, have a passion for the industry, and can share your excitement and enthusiasm for the role. Some hiring managers, recruiters, and human resources professionals will state that a cover letter is no longer required and that no one reads them anymore. However, these can be critically important tools to use in your job search and can set you apart – in a positive way – from other candidates.
Just like your resume, your cover letter should have a clear focus on the position you are applying for. Employers can instantly tell when you’ve written a generic cover letter that you send out with all your applications, and this makes a bad impression.
Ensure your cover letters focusses on the employer’s needs, and how you can meet them. Remember – the only thing employers have on their minds is “How can you be valuable to me?”
If you were referred by someone known to the employer, be sure to make that link in the first sentence. Job search is often about who you know, making it important to highlight these connections in your opening.
Use the company website, your network, LinkedIn, or other social media to try to identify the name of the hiring manager, ensuring your letter is personalized. Calling the employer is also an option; for example, “My name is ___________, and I am applying for a counselling practicum position. Can you please tell me the name of the hiring manager so that I can personalize my cover letter?” Although this may seem like a small detail, it shows effort and sets you apart from all the other applicants who write “Dear Hiring Manager.”
Don’t rely on the body of an email for your cover letter. Take the time to create a proper business letter format, complete with header (one that matches your resume), greeting, introductory paragraph, etc.
Having spelling or grammatical errors in your written materials leaves a bad impression and will, more than likely, result in an immediate rejection. Reading your letter out loud can help, having someone else proofread is also a good idea.
Whether you are going to call to follow-up or invite the employer to call you, be sure your cover letter sets the scene for the next step. Even something as simple as, “I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this position in greater detail.” reminds the employer there is an important next step.