How to Make a Good Cover Letter That Sells Your Skills
Cover letters need to convey your value. Follow these steps and you’ll have a priceless piece of self-promotion to share with employers.
Learning how to make a good cover letter and resume may seem to you to be little more than a paperwork exercise, but the truth is, those are two very valuable marketing tools. Great marketing has the power to persuade, and that's exactly what you're trying to do: Convince a hiring manager to call you in for an interview.
Like a great resume, a well-crafted cover letter can help you sell yourself to an employer. Cover letters offer you an opportunity to say share that you can't address on your resume and let you express your enthusiasm for the position and show the hiring manager exactly how your skills and experience make you the best person for the job.
Let's go over a few tips that show you exactly how to make a good cover letter.
Do Your Homework Before Writing a Cover Letter
The best way to begin learning how to make a good cover letter is to take your cues from the information that's already out there to your advantage. Start by researching the company you're applying to, says Monster resume expert Kim Isaacs. You need to understand what's important to them and what they pride themselves on. Monster's company profile pages are great resources.
Aside from checking out the company's website, read news articles about the company, review quarterly reports if the company is public, and talk to current employees for insight into the organization's culture. Also, review the employer's social media channels and following the company's executives on social media. Gather all the information you can about the organization's core values, culture, and business goals.
Glean Key Information from the Job Posting
Job descriptions offer an invaluable snapshot of the position—and, they contain keywords you'll want to weave into your cover letter. Make a list of the most frequently used words in the job posting; those are the words you'll want to try and incorporate. Do this for each cover letter you write so that they're tailored to the jobs you're pursuing. This kind of customization is a key part of understanding how to make a good cover letter.
Moreover, highlight the skills that are mentioned in the job posting. Specifically, pick out the soft skills and address them in your cover letter.
Construct Your Cover Letter
People have short attention spans. Hiring managers and recruiters are no exception, especially when they're faced with a stack of job applications. As a result, keep your cover letter length to a single page.
Ready to sit down and compose your cover letter? Follow these tips:
Ideally, you want to address the cover letter to the hiring manager or recruiter who's assigned to the job opening. Your best approach, Isaacs says, is a formal greeting such as Dear Ms. Alvis or Dear Mr. Yang. (If you're unsure of the person's gender, write out the person's full name.)
If the hiring manager's or recruiter's name is not included in the job posting, you may have to do some digging. You can ask the company's human resources department or a current employee for the hiring manager's name.
If you hit a dead end, Isaacs recommends using "Dear hiring manager" instead of a stale salutation like "Dear Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern."
The Opening Paragraph
Newsflash: Hiring managers are busy—they don't have the time or the patience to wade through fluff. That means your opening paragraph has to be direct. Clearly state the position you're applying for, how you heard about the job opening (e.g., referral from a current employee, Monster), and a synopsis of why you're the best candidate for the position. For example:
Your position advertised on Monster is an excellent fit with my qualifications, as the enclosed resume will attest. My background includes 10 years of success managing international sales programs, top-ranked regions, and Fortune 500 accounts. I offer particular expertise in the high-tech sector, with in-depth knowledge of networking technology that will benefit your team.
This is where you lay out, in detail, the top reasons why you're worthy of a job interview, Isaacs says. Keep your audience in mind: Hiring managers are self-centered—they want to know what you can do for them, not learn about your life story.
The key of how to make a good cover letter? You'll need to demonstrate how your credentials, motivation, and track record would benefit the company. You can accomplish this by citing anecdotes that highlight your skills, focusing on the outcome. That means you want to show results.
Using numbers is a great way to quantify your achievements (e.g., "Because I created and implemented a new marketing plan at my last job, the company saw sales increase by 30%."). Make sure to address your unique selling points—if you're bilingual, for instance, explain how that would make you a more valuable asset.
With respect to formatting this section, you don't have to stick to the traditional paragraph structure; often, bullet points can make the information easier to digest.
The Closing Paragraph
No cover letter is complete without an expression of appreciation, which is where the closing paragraph comes in. Try this script:
I greatly appreciate your time and consideration for [name of position] and look forward to speaking with you further at your earliest convenience. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Generally, a professional sign-off, such as "sincerely," "best regards," or "respectfully yours," is the way to go.
Get Your Foot in the Door
Now that you know how to make a good cover letter, turn your attention toward your job search. Need a little help finding the right types of jobs and companies that would be a good fit for you? Streamline the process by creating a Monster profile for free. We'll help you match your skills and interests with the right kinds of job openings.