What is a cover letter, exactly? And why do you need one? The cover letter is their first opportunity to get a glimpse of a candidate outside of the clinical CV. Cover letters are your first opportunity to show that you are enthusiastic about the position and the company. It provides the personal touch that a CV will not, expressing thought and intention. Write a cover letter that is strong and error-free to give yourself the edge every candidate needs to get that interview.
Length of your cover letter
There is no reason for a cover letter to be longer than a single page. For many hiring managers, the shorter the better. There may be unique circumstances where this rule could be broken. But unless you’re applying for CEO of a Fortune 500 company or looking to head a hospital, stick to one page.
Writing a cover letter
The standard format for a cover letter is this:
- An introduction that tells the reader why you’re writing—in this case, because you are interested in an open position that piqued your interest. Briefly detail why you believe the position is a good fit.
- The next section should highlight a few background details. Avoid repeating what’s in the CV. Instead, discuss one or two projects the hiring managers might find relevant. These should be projects that showed measurable results—i.e., you helped cut costs or initiated a new computer system.
- The cover letter should close out with a request for an interview. Quickly repeat that you’re interested in the position. In fact, you should mention the position title two to three times throughout the letter.
Including keywords and phrases
Cover letter examples you find online are typically vague, but when you’re writing a cover letter, it needs to be created explicitly for the position in question. Hiring managers do not take kindly to generic cover letters. You can certainly use the same cover letter, but it should be tailored for each submission.
Carefully review the job description, finding words and phrases you can use. If the description says Support Center Rep, don’t use Call Center Rep in either the cover letter or CV. If they use industry-specific terminology, find a way to use it in your cover letter. The goal is to not make yourself the perfect candidate, it’s to make yourself the only candidate with all the right qualifications.
Email cover letter submissions
More and more candidates are submitting their credentials electronically. You can put the content of your cover letter directly into the body of an email. If you want to retain the nice formatting you get in your word processor, attach it and make a brief note that you’re applying for the advertised position and your CV and cover letter are attached. Do not leave the email body blank, otherwise you risk hiring managers deleting your submission without giving it a close look.
Make sure your cover letter makes it clear why the hiring manager should see you. Be relatable, formal but conversational, and educate the reader as to why they cannot afford to not meet with you. Whether they read the cover letter before or after reviewing your CV, the cover letter is going to be instrumental in getting the interview.
Don’t be one of those candidates that believes cover letters are a thing of the past. Hiring managers still take them seriously. Following these tips for writing a cover letter will help you develop one that is correctly structured, phrased and submitted so that you have a better chance of getting an interview and landing the job of your dreams.