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Writing a Professional Cover Letter

Updated: Jun 20, 2021

Enduring the great job search can be very overwhelming, intimidating, and time-consuming. In today's markets, things move fast and personal interactions are fleeting. With this in mind, creating the right professional documents can get your foot in the door, give you an edge over competition, and eventually a handshake (or an elbow-bump during Covid). A resume or a CV is a no-brainer, depending on your field. However, the necessity of other documents can be a little less clear, like the dreaded cover letter. Some applications require them, others leave it as an optional submission, and yet others make no mention. As a result, a lot of job-seekers ask, "Do I really need a cover letter?" or "Is it really worth the effort?"

Bottom line: A cover letter is a great opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants. Even if a cover letter is not required, it is a useful tool for not only introducing yourself but also illustrating how you will contribute to the organization's objectives and overall mission.

A cover letter is specific. A cover letter should always be targeted toward a specific role. A general "plug-and-play" cover letter won't cut it beyond entry-level positions. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see that candidates have done their homework and that they can function and develop in the role. The cover letter is your opportunity to demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the job functions. This can only be accomplished with a targeted and role-specific cover letter.

A cover letter sounds like you. This is an introduction to not only the hard skills related to the position you seek but also your soft skills, like relatability, adaptability, humor, or whatever else that might be. Put yourself into it!

A cover letter illustrates. The keyword here is illustrate. While the first paragraph of your cover letter might explain your interest in the role, the following paragraphs build a case for your consideration by painting a picture of your previous achievements. Tangible evidence is the most powerful evidence in this format; therefore, you'll want to include your achievements in metrics or numbers. At the end of each paragraph, it is a best practice to connect your past accomplishments to your future goals within the role.

A cover letter is polished. In the digital age, the cover letter is your handshake. Read it over several times to check for typos, misspellings, or weird sentences. When proofreading, a good trick is to read it backwards sentence by sentence. Have a friend look it over to help find errors with grammar, syntax, or wordiness.

As you prepare for your job search, consider the benefits a cover letter will offer. In a hurry? Check out the infographic below!

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