6 Of Our Favorite Tips For Writing The Perfect Cover Letter

cover letter tips

Unsplash/Stanley Dai

Hey, champ. We know you’ve been working hard and applying for jobs left and right. But if your resume is killin’ it and you still aren’t getting any bites, the issue might lie in your cover letter. While you might think cover letters are your opportunity to spend 500 words talking about your experience and why you love a particular company, we’ve got a different approach. Here’s everything you need to know about creating a solid cover letter.

1. Address your cover letter to the appropriate person or who you think would be the best fit if no contact is indicated in the application.

Never — and we mean never — address your cover letter and other materials to “Whom it may concern” or “Sir or Madam.” LinkedIn exists now, which means you can do a quick search of the company and probably find multiple people who work there. Even if you’re not sure that you’re addressing your cover letter to the right person, make an educated guess. We guarantee it’s better than starting out with a vague greeting.

2. Keep your first paragraph as brief as possible.

While you may want to set yourself up with a nice intro and gush about all the reasons why you love the company you’re applying to, it’s a lot of filler. So, instead of saying, “Hi, I’m John Smith and I’m currently the senior editor of [company name], a website and newsletter, and I cover X and Y topics,” you can cut this down to say, “Hi, I’m John and I cover X and Y at [company name].” Whoever is looking at your cover letter already figured out what your title, where you work and your primary responsibilities from your resume.

Also, instead of spending three sentences commenting on what you love about a company, minimize it to one sentence and make every word of that sentence count. For example, instead of saying, “I’ve been looking at [company name] for X years for many reasons. I love that your [name of main product or service] is x, y and z. I also love your visually-forward marketing style. I believe you stand out against your two-dimensional competitors,” say, “I was drawn to [company name] because your [name of main product or service] and visually-forward marketing style stands out against your two-dimensional competitors.”

The key is to shorten and strengthen your sentences, particularly in the first paragraph since that’s your “first impression.” Take out filler words, as well as anything that would be clearly stated in your resume.

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3. Instead of the typical paragraph structure, we suggest numbering — yes, numbering — your achievements in your cover letter after your introduction.

Hear us out. No, we’re not talking about literally numbering every sentence you write. After your intro, get right into why you’re perfect for the open position. But instead of piling your achievements into one big paragraph, choose three or four reasons why the position is tailor-made to you and list them out with a few sentences of explanation (and any data you have to back you up) beneath each point. For example:

1. I have direct experience in X.

Sentence 1. Sentence 2. Sentence 3.

2. I drove Y results at Z companies.

Sentence 1. Sentence 2. Sentence 3.

3. I’ve worked in X, Y and Z environments. 

Sentence 1. Sentence 2. Sentence 3.

Obviously, these points are very barebones because every industry, job description and individual experience is different. Our advice? Choose a handful of points in which you can prove your amazing experience with data or that are unique enough to set you apart. (We know, it’s hard to figure out what can be considered “unique.” We suggest you ask others in your field for advice on your specific points.)

4. End with a few sentences — not a paragraph.

So, you briefly introduced yourself and let the company know why you like them in the first paragraph, and then you listed out the major reasons why that company should hire you in the following section. All you have to do now is tie up that letter nicely with a smooth conclusion. Instead of going on and on about how you’re excited to hear back and that you feel you’d be an amazing fit, go for just two sentences. Say something like, “I hope I can put my skills and experience to work at [company name]. Looking forward to potentially continuing the conversation.” Then, of course, sign off with your name. Voilà!

5. Check your word count!

You should be writing no more than 350 words in your cover letter. Make it as short as possible without compromising on valuable information. Let’s be honest — no one has the time to read dozens of 500-word cover letters on top of their full-time jobs unless they’re just not doing their jobs. And obviously, that’s not good, either. Make it easy for everyone and keep it short and sweet.

6. Unless you have to include your cover letter in a PDF format, paste it into an email or application page.

Time to send that baby out. If you’re in an application page and have the option to paste your cover letter, do so. Similarly, if you have the email address of the company contact (score!), paste your cover into your application email. There’s really no reason for you to make this person open another attachment on their computer or phone just to see what you’re about. Make reading this cover letter as easy and intuitive as possible for your company contact.


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