7 Tips for the Perfect Cover Letter

7 Tips for the Perfect Cover Letter

When applying for a new job, your resume can be constructed more or less by formula. However, cover letters require a bit more finesse. The cover letter tells your potential employer what he or she should focus on in your application (hint: the good stuff) and gives a taste of your personality. But even if the idea of writing terrifies you, a cover letter can be taken step-by-step to make it easy.

1. Keep it on one page

Seriously. If the recruiter loses interest in your application, you won’t get hired. Professional writers have trouble keeping people’s rapt attention beyond a single page. So eliminate the fluff, and make sure you keep only the most important ideas.

2. Format like a formal letter

You are writing a personal letter to the hiring company explaining why you should be hired. To be given consideration, you need to show you know and understand and respect business conventions, such as how to format a formal letter. This isn’t hard, and guides exist all over the interwebs. Such as this one.

3. Adopt the four paragraph system

You only need four paragraphs, and they are easily laid-out for every letter.

  • 1st Paragraph – Introduction

    State which position you are applying for and lay out the main one or two reasons why this job is for you. Have lots of experience in the industry, or a great relevant degree? Mention it now. You’ll elaborate further, but you want to get them out there early.

  • 2nd Paragraph – Why You’d Succeed

    Go into detail about why you’re more than qualified for the job. Look at the job description, especially the Qualifications section, and incorporate these things into your letter in this paragraph. Talk about the things on your resume you want to steer the recruiter’s eyes to. Mention any awards or achievements you’ve received or accomplished. Impress them.

  • 3rd Paragraph – Why You Want Them

    Employers know that their employees work harder and better if they have a personal stake in the business of the company. Use this space to convince them that their company is one that you want to work for, and would be proud to have as a part of your life. Obviously this is easier if you’re applying for a job cuddling baby seals than this one, but if you can’t say why you want this job at this company, then why are you applying for it? Talk about why you look forward to working for the company, and why you think it will be desirable next-step in your career.

  • 4th Paragraph – How You’d Help Them and Conclusion


    Conclude your letter with why their company would benefit by hiring you. After that, thank them for their time and say you look forward to their response.

4. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself

Now is not the time to try and show off your modesty. You have one page to make the potential employer think that you must be hired. No one else will toot your horn (unless your dad owns the company), so you’re going to have to. You’ve worked hard to make yourself qualified for this job, so take pride in that and let the reader know.

5. Explain how YOU will benefit THEM

This part is critical and often left out. Remember that the company will hire who it feels will help them the most. While you believing the job will help you is important, you need to lay out why you’d be such an asset. Explain how your presence helped your previous employers and why you’d fit into this one advantageously.

6. Keep a professional tone

Once again, this is a formal letter. You have probably never met the people who are reading this before. You are applying for them to engage in a business transaction with you, services rendered for compensation, so adopt that mindset. Stay clear and formal.

7. Proofread!

Reread the letter. Read it out loud. Seriously. Read it backwards, checking each word for spelling. Have a close friend or family member read it. Any grammar or spelling mistakes will instantly sink you. It’s also easy to make your ideas long and confusing, so make sure your friend tells you about any hesitations he or she had while reading it. After that, sign it and send it off.

Good luck!