A cover letter is the second most important document in the application package, especially if it is required by the employer. Most job seekers don't think there is anything difficult in developing a cover letter and it is hard to argue with that statement. However, creating a cover letter that will actually help you get noticed by employers may be a bit more difficult. Because the competition is very high these days hiring authorities often use cover letters to see whether it is worth reading a resume afterward. So if you want to stand out against other candidates it is better you take the cover letter writing process seriously. This article is both for those who have no clue what to say in a cover letter and for those who do know something but are not sure how to bring it all together to make it effective.
What Do Employers Want to Hear?
When a hiring manager takes your cover letter into the hands or opens it on a computer he/she wants one question answered: why do you want to work for the company? Employers are interested in why you decided to send the application to their company specifically. In other words, they want to know why you want to work where they work. If you fail to answer this simple (yet tough) question in your cover letter you will significantly cut your chances of being hired to a minimum. Being relevant to the needs of a particular company turns a cover letter from generic into a specific (and effective) one. Of course, you need to research the company, its philosophy, clients, etc. in order to know what to say. But there is no way around - in order to have a powerful cover letter, you must invest your time and efforts. Obviously, the section in which you explain why you want to work for this specific company should be adjusted as you apply to a different company. It is also important to start your letter in a manner that would attract the attention of the one reading it.
First of all, forget about the "To Whom It May Concern" opening. This phrase doesn't make a good beginning of your cover letter. The person who will be reviewing or reading your letter is most likely a hiring manager so it will be better if you address your cover letter appropriately. The best option is to find out and put the name of the person who is doing the hiring. You can do that by carefully reading a job opening; another thing you could do is to go a step further and contact the company to find out that name. This will show to your employer that you care enough to invest your time and efforts into this job search thing. Secondly, don't say that "attached is your resume for the [x] position". Such a beginning can be a complete turnoff for hiring managers. Instead, try to share your value proposition to a potential employer; this will automatically wake a hiring manager up after a hundred of boring resumes and cover letters. Then in the middle paragraph (or paragraphs) make sure you explain how your qualifications and skills (-> value proposition) match the needs of a company you are applying to. Make sure you don't copy-paste your job responsibilities or skills from a resume, instead find words to add on to whatever you have already said on a CV.
Cover Letter Closing
In the last paragraph, you are just to thank a hiring manager for the time and consideration. You could also reiterate your interest in the position and say that you are looking forward to having a chance to talk in person. Some people also leave their contact details and encourage to contact them if any questions arise but this is obvious that hiring managers will do that without such comments.
Check our cover letter samples for more insight into how to write them.