Tips for writing a cover letter that'll help land the job
A knockout cover letter can be the difference between an interview and the trash bin
Though there are some arguments about their usefulness these days, cover letters remain an important part of the hiring process for many companies. They give job seekers the opportunity to put some context around their experience and show how their experience can help a prospective employer. They also serve as a gatekeeper of sorts, helping hiring managers bypass applicants who may not be overly serious about a job.
While a cover letter doesn't need to be read like a well-polished book, it must be coherent, orderly, and in tune with the company you're applying to.
Few industries are more reliant on cover letters than tech. With all the different languages a programmer can write in, technology engineers can work with, and the countless certifications available, this cover letter allows the applicant to show how their experience and training fit a role. It can also highlight their fluency in a programming language, even if it wasn't part of a past job.
Below, we'll show you how to craft a masterful cover letter that'll help you land that tech job you so badly want.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document you send with your resume to provide the hiring person with more information on your skills and experience. It explains why you are qualified for the job and briefly summarizes your background. The goal is to attract the hiring manager, get them to read your resume and later contact you for an interview.
The cover letter shouldn’t repeat what you’ve included in your resume. It includes details on how your skills and experience matched with the specific job requirements. The cover letter speaks on your behalf, marketing you as the ideal candidate for the advertised position.
Every resume should include a cover letter, whether or not it is requested in the advertisement for the job. It shows you are interested in the role and can match your skills to the company’s needs.
What should you include in your cover letter?
There are many ways to write a cover letter, and they can be written for different purposes and in different styles, depending on the industry and role. However, every cover letter should include the same basic information and main sections.
The header includes your contact information, the employer’s information and the date. Your contact information should include the following:
- First and last name
- Street address, with city, state and post or zip code
- Phone number
- Email address
The employer’s information should include the hiring person’s name (if available), position, company name and address.
You can also include your website and social media profiles here, if they are relevant to the job application. Also, make sure to use a professional-looking email. If your email isn’t professional enough, create a new one for this purpose.
Begin the cover letter with a salutation: “Dear”/“To” + “Mr.”/“Ms.”/“Dr.” + last name
Address the actual contact person, if it’s available. If you don’t know the person’s gender, write out their full name (e.g., Dear Chris Smith). If you don’t have the contact’s name, refer to their title (e.g., To the Human Resources Manager). However, there are many ways to find the name of the right person, such as the company’s website, LinkedIn, Hunter.io, etc., so this shouldn’t be an issue.
The goal of the introduction is to entice the hiring manager to keep reading.
Start the first paragraph by stating the position or name of the job you’re applying for. Mention who referred you to the job or where you learned of the position. Then grab the reader’s attention with a brief statement of how your skills, achievements and experience fit the job description and meet the company’s needs.
Over the next two to three paragraphs, explain why you’re interested in the role and in working for the company. Highlight aspects of your skills and experience that match with specific – and preferably the most important – qualifications from the job posting.
Don’t repeat everything stated in your resume. List examples to illustrate how your abilities and experience meet the job description.
Provide concrete and tangible examples of your work experience to show how your traits match the job requirements. Don’t simply say “you are good at project management” or “you are efficient.” Instead, include real-world examples of when you managed a difficult project or how you measurably improved efficiency in your previous job.
This is also a great place to include any IT certificates you have, how you’ve used them and how they will help in the job you’re applying for.
Also, state why you would be a good fit for the company. Research the company’s industry, business and culture to better understand what the company does and values. Explain why you want to work there, what you like most about the company and how you would fit into the organization and provide value. Show you know their business and care about being a part of it.
Briefly repeat how your skills and experience make you the ideal person for the position and company. Include why you want to work for the organization.
You should also close with a call to action by stating you’d like to discuss the opportunity during an in-person or phone interview. Also include how and when you plan to follow up, or how and when the hiring manager can contact you.
Conclude by thanking the hiring manager for considering your resume.
End the cover letter with a complimentary close (e.g., Sincerely, Thank you), followed by your handwritten signature and typed name. You can add your phone number or email, but it is not necessary.
Writing tips for your cover letter
- The cover letter should support – not repeat – the content in your resume.
- Keep the writing tight – the cover letter should be one page long.
- Write in a professional yet personal manner.
- Personalize and customize your cover letter for each job application. Human resources professionals read a lot of cover letters and can tell when it’s generic.
- Don’t share personal information about yourself or your family and don’t go into personal interests unless they apply to the role.
- Read the job description carefully so you can include keywords in the cover letter. Match your skills to the company and job’s requirements.
- Don’t mention what you don’t know or your lack of experience in a particular area. Focus on your abilities and experience rather than your deficiencies.
- Don’t mention salary or pay requirements in the cover letter, unless the job posting asks for your salary preferences.
What about formatting?
Format the cover letter so it looks like a professional business letter. Match the font in the cover letter to your resume. Stick with one commonly used font – this is not the time to mix and match fonts and colors. Make the font size legible (10-12 pt). Single spacing and one line space between paragraphs is the norm.
Make ample use of white space for legibility. Insert standard 1” margins around all sides of the page. Include white space between each section of your cover letter.
Check your spelling and grammar
A spelling error or typo can derail a well-written cover letter. Edit and proofread your cover letter after you’ve finished writing it and before sending it.
Ask someone to review the cover letter for you, as we have difficulty catching our own mistakes. Read the letter aloud, as it will help you to hear how the letter sounds out loud and catch some unusual wording.