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Whether you’re a seasoned professional or attempting to land your first job, the importance of a well-crafted, personable cover letter cannot be understated. With your resume, a cover letter is your one chance to persuade employers why you deserve to move forward in the hiring process, so you want to make it count.
As leaders in career strategy, we’ll show you how to write a cover letter fit for today’s job market, from tailoring your message for the role to common mistakes you should avoid. We’ll explain how to use your cover letter as a powerful tool that catches the recruiter’s attention, ultimately opening doors to exciting new career opportunities.
The Importance of Cover Letters in 2024
Everyone knows that the job market is in a constant state of fluctuation, but cover letters are just as relevant (if not more so) than ever before. Job postings can receive hundreds of applications, and many recruiters use pre-screening tools to quickly assess who deserves to move forward and who to disregard—before they manually read a single application.
As a result, it’s essential to keep the following considerations in mind when you go to write your cover letter:
Evolving Role of Cover Letters in Job Applications
Cover letters aren’t just introductory notes; they complement your resume and act as a personal narrative about what you’ll bring to the table as a new hire. While a resume outlines your qualifications, professional history, and achievements, the cover letter brings them to life.
It aligns your skills and aspirations with the company’s culture, which can make your application more memorable and impactful. Moreover, a cover letter offers insights into your personality and work ethic, allowing you to explain how your experiences make you an ideal candidate for the role beyond what your resume can capture.
Analyzing Cover Letter Trends for 2024
In 2024, there’s a growing emphasis on digital proficiency, the ability to work remotely and independently, and soft skills like adaptability and emotional intelligence. Depending on the industry and role, you want to ensure you understand what the employer values and must have in a new hire, as these factors can significantly influence whether or not you move forward in the hiring process.
Additionally, many recruiters now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to automatically scan and sort job applications based on specific criteria, such as keywords, skills, former employers, or educational backgrounds. Since an ATS might initially assess your cover letter and resume, you should include relevant keywords from the job description to increase the chances of your application reaching a human recruiter.
Structuring Your Cover Letter
A well-structured cover letter isn’t just about the content but how you present your professional story. You want to ensure your cover letter is concise, coherent, and highlights the most relevant aspects of your candidacy, which involves the following:
Essential Components of an Effective Cover Letter
While you should try to determine what the company and recruiter look for in a cover letter, you should include several components to align with industry standards:
- Header: Include your contact information, the date, and the employer’s contact details in the cover letter heading.
- Salutation: Address the hiring manager or recruiter by name if possible.
- Opening Statement: Start with a compelling and engaging introduction that captures the reader’s attention and clearly states your purpose.
- Body Paragraphs: Use the body of your cover letter to detail your experiences and skills most valuable to the job. This section should align your background with the job requirements and demonstrate why you’re an ideal candidate.
- Company-Specific Content: Throughout your cover letter, show that you’re familiar with the company and know how your skills can benefit them.
- Closing Statement: Conclude by expressing your enthusiasm for the role and the possibility of an interview.
- Signature: End with a professional closing and your name.
If you can articulate these components clearly and concisely (up to a one-page document), you’ll show potential employers what sets you apart from the other candidates and, hopefully, move forward in the hiring process. You might also consider researching professional cover letter templates to align with current standards.
Tailoring the Content to the Job and Company
Before you write your cover letter, think about how to customize it for the specific role and organization. This starts with reading and analyzing the job description, considering how your existing skills and experiences fit the requirements listed. Use similar language and keywords to show why you’re a clear fit, which demonstrates your suitability for the role and attention to detail.
You should also research their website, explore their social media presence, and catch up on any recent news or achievements to gather insights you can incorporate into your cover letter. Mentioning specific aspects of the company’s culture that resonate with your background signifies you’re a great candidate for the job, so try to familiarize yourself with the organization as much as possible.
Showcasing Your Strengths and Achievements
Since you’re trying to convince the recruiter but have limited space in your cover letter, you want to emphasize the professional strengths and achievements that make you the best fit for the job. You can start with these strategies to showcase your advantages effectively:
Highlighting Your Unique Qualifications
While you write or touch up your resume, reflect on your past experiences and pick out skills the recruiter will likely value. Think about what sets you apart from other candidates, whether that’s a combination of technical skills, soft skills, leadership experiences, or problem-solving abilities.
Whenever possible, quantify your achievements and provide evidence. For example, if you increased sales or efficiency, specify by the percentage or use numerical indicators, such as how much you saved in operating costs. Likewise, use specific and tangible examples that prove your capabilities, such as a successful project you led or a challenging problem you solved.
Connecting Your Experiences to the Job Requirements
It’s crucial to connect your past experiences and professional history directly to the job you’re applying for. This shows the employer that you understand the role and have assessed your own experiences in relation to it. Then, go a step further and demonstrate how you can add value to the company.
For instance, you can discuss how your unique skills will address the company’s current challenges or contribute to its future goals. Show them that you’re not just looking for any job, but specifically the role they’re offering, and that you have the skills and ambitions to excel in it.
Engaging Writing Techniques for Cover Letters
After researching the role and knowing what you’ll discuss in your cover letter, you’re ready to start writing. Here are some valuable writing insights and an overview of what to avoid:
Crafting a Narrative That Engages the Reader
At the end of the day, a cover letter is just that: a letter. It should come across like it was written by you and have a distinct voice, leaning more toward a personal narrative. Be personable and share specific instances where your skills made a difference, focusing on challenges, actions, and results. Moreover, use descriptive language to paint a clear picture of situations you’ve handled.
In essence, you want to write a compelling story that resonates with the reader. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the tone, share personal insights, or include a bit about your passions related to the industry while keeping it professional and concise.
Avoiding Common Mistakes and Clichés
When writing a cover letter, it’s important to avoid common pitfalls that can diminish its effectiveness. These include the following mistakes and clichés:
- Overused Phrases: Labels like “team player,” “hard worker,” or “self-starter” are so commonly used that they lose meaning and fail to differentiate you.
- Vague Statements: Generalizations like “I’m good at all parts of the job” lack credibility and can seem disingenuous.
- Negative Language: Refrain from any negativity when discussing past employers or experiences.
- Repeating Your Resume: Don’t just summarize your resume; offer new insights.
- Long Length: Keep your cover letter concise and free from long sentences or paragraphs—the goal is to make it easy to scan and digest.
- Jargon or Technical Language: While you can sound familiar with the industry and use some lingo, try to keep your language clear and accessible in case the recruiter isn’t as familiar with your line of work.
- Generic Salutations: Be creative and refrain from saying something like “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.”
In addition, always proofread your cover letter to catch any grammatical errors or typos, as these can create an impression of carelessness. You might also consider asking a trusted colleague, friend, or family member to review your cover letter before submitting, especially to ensure it reads well and reflects your intentions.
Advanced Tips for Cover Letter Success
Now that you’ve got the basics of cover letter writing down, here are some insider tips to make your submission shine:
Leveraging Digital Tools, Platforms, and Cover Letter Templates
In 2024, you can take advantage of several online tools and platforms to enhance your cover letter. For example, you can find paid and free cover letter templates, which can provide a strong foundation while allowing you to customize them to reflect your personal brand. While you don’t need an over-the-top template, you want it to catch their attention and have clear organization that makes it easy to read.
You might also consider researching cover letter examples or a modern cover letter template, especially ones shared by other professionals in a similar role and field. Likewise, you might even find a free cover letter template matching the organization or industry you're interested in.
Additionally, consider including links to your digital portfolio, LinkedIn profile, or any other resource that gives employers a direct avenue to view your broader work and achievements. These are especially helpful to further demonstrate your credibility and ensure the recruiter gets the complete picture of everything you’ll bring to the role.
Following Up After Submitting Your Application
After you submit your application, be ready to follow up if needed, typically a week or two post-submission. However, the job application might indicate when you’re supposed to hear back, so follow this timeframe before reaching out (if provided).
When you send a follow-up note, you want to keep your message polite, concise, and professional. Briefly restate your interest in the position and why you believe you’re a good fit. At the end, thank the recruiter or hiring manager for considering your application.
How JobTest.org Can Help You Write Your Cover Letter
While you’re more than capable of writing your own cover letter, JobTest.org is another excellent resource to gather ideas and refine your approach. Here’s how:
Advanced Career Testing
Our career test is built with cutting-edge AI and machine learning technology that dives deep into your core values, work personality, compatible job paths, and more to give you an accurate picture of what it takes to find your dream job. By taking our career test, you can quickly gather insights about your strengths and what you should include in your cover letter.
Professional Career Coaching
After taking our career test, we can connect you with one of our expert career coaches who can walk you through the process of writing cover letters. They can help you develop a plan, recommend the best cover letter template, and review your letter to ensure it illustrates what a recruiter wants to know. Moreover, a career coach can help you gauge whether or not it’s appropriate to follow up and, if so, what you might say when you do.
Overall, writing a good cover letter in 2024 requires a blend of personalization, clarity, and strategy. Always tailor your cover letter to the specific role and organization you’re applying to, and lean on your unique strengths and achievements that demonstrate your expertise. With these insights, you’re well-equipped to create a cover that stands out and paves the way for a better role. For further support, we encourage you to explore all of the resources JobTest.org offers, from our proprietary AI-powered career test to our career coaching services.
Professional Cover Letter Template
We’ve created a professional cover template that works for most roles, industries, and companies. You can use it as a starting point, but remember to adapt and personalize it accordingly, as you don’t want to submit a generic cover letter.
Address | Telephone | Email | LinkedIn Profile/Digital Portfolio
City, ST ZIP Code
Dear [Employer's/Hiring Manager’s/Recruiter’s Name],
Brief and Compelling Introduction:
Begin with a brief introduction about who you are and the position you are applying for. Mention how you learned about the opportunity and express your enthusiasm for the role and the company.
Body Paragraph 1 - Your Experience and Skills:
In this paragraph, highlight your relevant experience and skills. Be specific about your achievements and how they relate to the key requirements of the job. Use metrics and examples where possible to demonstrate your impact in previous roles. Keep it concise and easily scannable.
Body Paragraph 2 - Alignment with Company Values:
Discuss why you are a good fit for the company culture. Reference specific aspects of the company’s mission, values, or projects that resonate with you. Explain how your personal values and professional approach align with the company’s ethos. Discuss your familiarity with the company’s goals and how you believe you can make a positive impact. Keep it concise and easily scannable.
Conclude by reiterating your interest in the role and the value you can bring to the team. Mention that you have attached your resume for further details (if applicable). State that you are looking forward to the opportunity to discuss your application in further detail.
Note: The headers in bold are for reference and shouldn’t be included in your cover letter.