“Read this book, you’ll like it.”
“Mom, I really don’t want to. It looks dumb.”
“I promise you’ll like it.”
“Ugh… Fine I’ll try it.”
Time after time my mom would prove correct.
Employers often judge every “book” by its cover.
The cover letter is your “book cover.”
You may believe that a cover letter is an afterthought to an employer, but you would be wrong. The cover letter is the first impression; the first chance to prove value.
Due to this truth, a bad cover letter is certain to eliminate someone from consideration. (If you need evidence, check out this article by Business Insider.)
In fact, someone might have the best resume the world has ever seen, but if that resume is paired with a lazy, arrogant, presumptuous, pompous, pretentious, or scornful cover letter; the application email will be deleted, documents thrown away, and opportunity destroyed.
So yes, cover letters are very important.
“How do I write a good cover letter?”
First, writing a good cover letter is simple in theory but often difficult in execution. The cover letter should be brief. Remember, if an employer spends seven to fifteen seconds looking at a resume, he/she will likely spend less time reviewing a cover letter.
Second, a cover letter should include three features:
- An “introduction hook”
- An explanation of good fit
- A thank you and plan to follow up
1. Usually, a cover letter opens up like this:
To whom it may concern,
>I am applying for the x position at the y company…
There is nothing an employer wants to do less than read the same opening line a hundred times. The beginning of the cover letter is where you must separate yourself from the other applicants with an introduction AND a “hook.” Try this kind of opening instead:
I often innovate with teams to create, practice, and implement solutions to problems. I want the chance to prove my inquisitive and creative nature by gaining a position with the X company.
2. Explaining good fit is quite simple.
Look at the job description; what skills and experiences are needed to obtain the position? When you figure that out, you should share some specific examples that prove you are the right person for the job.
For example, if you were applying for a position as a social media developer, the following would be excellent content to use in a cover letter:
As a Social Media Intern at BYU-Idaho, I developed the “Social Media Blast” initiative which exchanged prizes for student “likes” and “follows” of our social media sites. As part of this project, I developed Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and WordPress accounts for our office.
3. Always thank an employer for taking the time to review your resume and cover letter.
I always tell those I work with that if they have an opportunity to be classy, they should take it. Don’t go over the top with gushy expressions of false gratitude, but be sincere.
Also, explain that you will follow up with the company within a week or so to make sure your materials have been received. (If you write that, make sure you actually follow up.) This is a good way to let the company know that you are legitimately interested in the position.
Here is an example:
Thank you for reviewing my cover letter and résumé. I am excited by the possibilities of this position and anxiously anticipate your decision. I will follow up within the week to ensure that my materials have been received and that everything is in order.
Cover letters are important to the job search process. If you put in the time to make an excellent cover letter, the company will notice and you may land your dream job.