Creating a cover letter to accompany your job application and résumé gives employers a concise introduction to who you are and why you're a good fit for your desired position.
Your résumé and work history provide a detailed record for application evaluators to review. But your cover letter is your elevator pitch. It gives you a chance to make a brief but compelling case for your employment and to convince employers that you will succeed in the role.
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Because it's such a critical part of your overall job application, you should craft your cover letter carefully. Here are four tips for creating a cover letter that makes a favorable first impression.
1. Strike the right tone.
Keep your tone professional when writing your cover letter. While you want to sound friendly, the casual language, popular abbreviations, and conversational slang you might be accustomed to using with your pals don't belong here. If you're worried about sounding stodgy, don't be. You're better off erring on the side of formality. A cover letter is a formal document, so it's better to be too formal than too casual.
On the other hand, you should pepper your letter with upbeat, positive language to show your enthusiasm about applying to the job. Just don't say it with emojis.
2. Tailor your message.
You also want to establish early in the letter why you're interested in the role and articulate which of your skills and experiences are most relevant to the field. If you've spent several summers as an assistant manager of a retail shop, for example, mention that in your cover letter for the business management role you're applying to. Caring for an ailing family member is something to touch on if it inspired you to pursue a healthcare career.
Customize your letter to show that you've thought about how this job is a good fit for you and your long-term career goals. This also means crafting a new letter for each job you apply to. Taking the time to tailor each cover letter to each role will help you stand out from applicants who submit letters written from a template.
3. Toot your own horn.
When writing your cover letter, CNNMoney advises that you focus less on what you think you're capable of and more on what you've already achieved. Describing your achievements rather than your ambitions will give employers a well-rounded understanding of your capabilities.
Maybe you were the captain of your high school soccer team or a finalist in a science competition. Maybe you're a longtime community volunteer who recently took charge of a successful fundraising competition. Or maybe you're an emerging entrepreneur who launched a part-time business as a teenager or working adult. Your cover letter is your opportunity to talk up these accomplishments and show how they're linked to your career goals.
4. Supplement your résumé.
Your cover letter is the perfect complement to your résumé. While your résumé lists your experience, your cover letter rounds out that experience with details about your skills, passions, and accomplishments. Using your cover letter to expand on the bullet points listed in your résumé is a good way to ensure that those accomplishments get the consideration they deserve.
After briefly discussing how your work experience relates to the role, invite the letter reader to learn more in the résumé you've attached. Your application might include supplemental materials, such as your résumé or references, but your cover letter can help tie these elements together to paint the full picture of who you are as a job candidate.
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Creating a cover letter lets you demonstrate the communication, critical-thinking, and organizational skills that will serve you well in your desired role. Make sure that your letter shows that you're excited and ready for the challenge of the position.
And make sure that you proofread it—or have someone proofread it for you—before you submit it.