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Ask a Recruiter: How Should Cover Letters Be Written?

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As part of our ‘Ask a Recruiter’ advice series, it’s time to look at cover letters. How should they be written? What are the dos and don’ts? Do they ever matter? Let’s get into it.

Are Cover Letters Important?

“I don’t like them,” says Senior Recruiter Vanessa Cox bluntly. “When a candidate tells me they’re going to write the greatest cover letter ever, I tell them not to waste their time. I want your resume.”1

While your cover letter is definitely not as important as your resume, it’s still best to include one. And, of course, if you’re going to do something, do it right! Here’s how.

Do Your Research: How to Tailor a Cover Letter

Do NOT write one generic cover letter and use it for every position you apply for. Instead, investigate the company and tailor your cover letter accordingly.

“A generic cover letter shows that you’re not taking the application seriously,” says Executive Assistant Ciaran Henderson.

Senior Recruiter Reiniell Gan agrees.

“Do your research first,” he urges. “Use your cover letter to demonstrate that you understand the company and the role you’re applying for.”

Should I Address a Cover Letter to a Specific Name?

Yes.

“If you’re not addressing the direct manager, it means that you’re simply sending out applications for the sake of it,” says Senior Recruiter Alessia Pagliaroli. “Please personalize your cover letter if possible.”

Goldbeck Recruiting President Henry Goldbeck agrees. “At the end of the day it is the facts on the resume that will tell the story, but if your resume is borderline the cover letter may come into play. You do not want the person screening resumes to think that yours is just a volume application as opposed to a serious approach to their specific position.”

Determining the name of the hiring manager may be easier said than done, but, at minimum, some effort should be made. If you are unable to include a name, put something such as “Dear Sir/Ms Regarding my application for the (name position).”

“You could always put a phone call in to the company inquiring about who the hiring manager is for a particular position,” advises Henderson. “You might even end up talking to that person for a moment or two, which could help you stand out from the pile of other candidates they’ll have to sort through.”

We still receive many applications addressed regarding a position that we are not working on, or to a different company altogether which is definitely a mark against that candidate.

How Should a Cover Letter be Structured?

A cover letter should be brief, certainly confined to a single page.

The opening paragraph should serve as an introduction and be used to express why you’re interested in the company and position.

The middle paragraph should detail the relevancy of your skills and experiences. Why are you best for the job? Again, avoid the temptation to be exhaustive here. That’s what your resume is for.

Conclude your cover letter with a strong closing statement. Include a call to action, or express your enthusiasm for a potential interview.  

Avoid Typos and Mistakes on Your Cover Letter

OK, so a cover letter can’t win you a job (that’s the resume’s role), but it can lose you one. Avoid typos. Ensure that your formatting is consistent and that you’re using a single font.

Are there specific instructions on the job listing? Follow them! Failing to do so suggests that you didn’t actually read the posting and that you’re not really interested in the position.

And, of course, use a professional tone!

Check out these other helpful Goldbeck Recruiting blogs that will help you through the job search. Best of luck!

Ask a Recruiter: Should Candidates Disclose Their Side Gigs?

Interviewees Asking Questions in Interviews: 8 Expert Tips

Master Resume Writing: Unlock the Door to Your Dream Job

Unlock Job Offers with Smart Reference Choices

Goldbeck Hits the Airwaves to Offer Advice to Job Seekers

Cited Sources

1 Direct communication with members of the Goldbeck Recruiting Staff


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