How to Write Better Cover Letters

How to Write Better Cover Letters
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Published on 14 January 2016

Imagine, for a minute, that you’re an employer. You need to fill a position and you receive hundreds of applications every day. You’ve deleted the ones from senders like cutie143@email.com, the ones with misspellings in the subject line or email body, and the ones that sound like generic templates.

Then you read a cover letter that shows knowledge of the position, skill fit, proper grammar and spelling, and enthusiasm. Finally, you’ve found a potential candidate. So what’s in that cover letter? Writing better cover letters requires time, research, a mindset switch, and deliberate word choice. Read on to write your way to a new job.

Research the company and the position

If you’ve found a company you’re serious about working for or a position that seems like the right fit, don’t apply immediately. Do more research. Read through the website and press releases. What do Glassdoor and LinkedIn have to say? Check out their Hoover’s profile. Find similar positions in other companies and compare descriptions.

If you still want to apply after researching, then you can write about how your skills match the position and how you would fit in with the company’s culture. If the position calls for leadership skills, briefly mention a situation in which you led a team to success. Give evidence. Write about which of the company’s programs you admire. Use specifics to demonstrate your investment in the application.

Get into an employer-first mindset

The employer will be thinking, “What’s in it for us?” Catch the employer’s attention by answering that question for them. Can you increase profits, retain talent, produce creative work, or boost productivity? How does your skill set fit with what they need? Sell yourself by explaining how you’ll benefit the company.

Enlist the power of verbals to add energy

Research shows that you need to come across as energetic and enthusiastic about the job to retain a reader’s interest. Use verbals, verb forms that act as nouns, adverbs, or adjectives, to give your sentences energy. Compare these two paragraphs:

Passage A

There are four main steps in the composition of a cover letter. First, you must collect your thoughts about the position and the company. You should gather evidence of your experience and the skills that will be described in the letter. The next step involves the development of those thoughts by the use of examples from your previous work experience. Next, you should organize these thoughts into three paragraphs: the reason you’re writing goes in the first paragraph; what qualifications pertain to the position and what benefits these qualities provide to the company goes in the second paragraph; and a sales close goes in the final paragraph. The last step is the determination of whether or not you have made any grammar or spelling errors.

Passage B

Composing a cover letter involves four main steps. Collecting your thoughts about the position and the company is the first step. You should gather evidence of your experience and the skills that you plan to describe in the letter. Developing these thoughts by using examples from your previous work experience is the next step. The third step involves organizing these thoughts into three paragraphs. Use the first paragraph to explain why you’re writing; use the second to describe what qualifications pertain to the position and what benefits these qualities provide to the company in the second paragraph; and follow up with a sales close in the final paragraph. The last step is to determine if you have made any grammar or spelling errors.

The verbals in passage B are marked with bold text. In a study comparing readers’ preference for passages similar to those above, over 75 percent of respondents chose passage B and described it as “more to the point,” “more organized,” and “clearer,” which supports the hypothesis that readers prefer more syntactically complex verbals over passages not as syntactically complex.

Edit, proofread, then do it again

You may be a perfect fit for the position, but grammar and spelling mistakes will prevent you from being invited for an interview. Take the time to review your email introduction, cover letter, and résumé for mistakes. Review it slowly, read it aloud, and use Grammarly to make sure it’s 100 percent error-free before sending.

Craft a cover letter that an employer wants to read by making it specific and engaging. That way, you can apply for fewer jobs and receive more invitations to interview.

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