It’s a good time to be a job seeker: U.S. job growth is strong, unemployment is on a steady decline, and openings are at an all-time high.
That doesn’t make the search any less daunting. Differentiating yourself from every other job seeker on the market is no small feat, and the monotony of filling out online applications can make the task downright exhausting. That’s where a killer cover letter comes in.
Done right, a great cover letter is like a secret weapon for catching a hiring manager’s attention. Next to your resume, it’s one of the most important, underutilized tools at your disposal.
Here are some cover letter writing tips, and a free, downloadable template, to make yours stand out.
Every cover letter you write should be tailored to the job you’re applying for — just like your resume. Study the job posting carefully, and make a quick list of any essential qualifications.
“Job seekers really struggle with what to say on a cover letter,” says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, President and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. “Taking a second to think about why you’re applying, and why you’re a good fit for the company, makes the process a lot easier.”
If you’re adding a cover letter to an online application, use a business letter format with a header and contact information. If you’re sending an email, it’s OK to leave out the header, but be sure to provide a phone number (and an attached resume, of course). Make sure you’re clear about the position you’re applying for.
Avoid nameless salutations — it might take a little Google research, and some LinkedIn outreach, but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score you major brownie points. “Do not start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’” Holbrook Hernandez says. “It concerns no one.”
2. Tell a Story
To grab a recruiter’s attention, a good narrative—with a killer opening line—is everything.
“The cover letter is a story,” says Satjot Sawhney, a resume and career strategist with Loft Resumes. “What is the most interesting thing you’re doing that’s relevant to this job?” Use that to guide your letter.
Ideally, the story that drives your resume will focus on a need at the company you’re applying for. If you’re a PR professional, maybe you have a list of clients in an industry the team wants to break into. If you’re in marketing, a successful promotional campaign might be the ticket in. “A hiring manager wants to see results-driven accomplishments with a past employer,” says Holbrook Hernandez. “If you’ve done it before, you can deliver it again.”
If you have a career gap or are switching industries, address it upfront. “If there’s anything unique in your career history, call that out in the beginning,” says professional resume writer Brooke Shipbaugh.
(Here’s a downloadable sample.)
3. Use Bullet Points to Show Impact
Hiring managers are usually slammed with applications, so short, quick cover letters are preferable to bloated ones, says Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of human resources at job site Indeed.
“Make your cover letter a brief, bright reference tool,” he says. “The easier you can make it on the recruiter the better.”
Bullet points are a good tool for pulling out numbers-driven results. Job seekers in creative fields like art and design can use bullets to break down their most successful project. Those in more traditional roles (like the one in the template), can hammer off two or three of their most impressive accomplishments.
4. Highlight Culture Fit
It’s often overlooked, but a major function of the cover letter is to show a company how well you’d mesh with the culture.
As you research a potential employer, look for culture cues on the company website, social media, and review sites like Glassdoor. Oftentimes, employers will nod to culture in a job posting. If the ad mentions a “team environment,” it might be good to play up a recent, successful collaboration. If the company wants a “self-starter,” consider including an achievement that proves you don’t need to be micromanaged.
The tone of your letter can also play to culture. “The cover letter is a great place to show [an employer] how you fit into their world,” Shipbaugh says. “Show some personality.”
5. End with an Ask
The goal of a cover letter is to convince the person reading it to make the next move in the hiring process — with a phone call, interview, or otherwise. Ending on a question opens that door without groveling for it.
“You have to approach this with a non-beggar mentality,” Sawhney says. “Having an ‘ask’ levels the playing field.”
Related: What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2018
Cover Letter Example for Applying for Multiple Jobs
When you're excited about a company, you may want to apply to several different positions there. But as a job seeker, you may be worried about the impression it gives off. Does it seem desperate? Well, it depends.
Below is information on when applying for multiple jobs at a company is a good idea. Also, see a cover letter example for applying for multiple jobs within the same company.
Should You Apply for Multiple Jobs at a Company?
Applying for different positions in a company works if you are truly qualified for the positions you're applying to.
If you are a strong candidate for all the positions, it makes sense to apply to them.
Another factor you must consider is the size of the company. If it is a large company, then there's a good chance you won't get the same hiring manager reviewing each application. Therefore, there is no harm in applying for multiple jobs.
Most importantly, even if you're applying for multiple positions at a company, try to limit yourself and be realistic. Applying to two or three positions you qualify for is acceptable, but submitting your resume for every single position listed can be a turnoff.
Some people recommend applying to one job at a time and, if you don't hear back and some time has passed, applying for another position later. However, there's a chance that the jobs may be gone by the time you're ready to apply again. You'll have to weigh the risks.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter for Two Jobs at a Company
When applying to two or more jobs at a company, you will typically submit separate resumes and cover letters for each job.
Every resume and cover letter should be tailored to fit the specific job listing. For each job application, include keywords related to the specific job.
However, if you are allowed to only submit one job application to the company, or the two jobs are in the same department and are similar, you might consider writing one cover letter for two or more jobs.
When doing this, you need to keep a few things in mind:
Address the right person. Since you are submitting your cover letter to two jobs, two separate people might be looking at the cover letter. In your salutation, be sure to address all of the people who will be reading your cover letter (or use a general phrase such as “To Whom It May Concern”). This way, you will not appear to be emphasizing your interest in one job over the other.
Express your qualifications for both jobs. Be sure to explain why you are qualified for both jobs. Consider writing one paragraph mentioning your skills and experiences for one job, and another paragraph for the other job. Another option (if the two jobs are related) is to list your skills and experience that apply to both jobs.
Express enthusiasm for the company. Clearly state your interest in the company, so that the hiring managers understand your interest. Perhaps include a paragraph that states why you think you are a good fit for the company generally. Include keywords from the company website in this paragraph. Also emphasize how you can benefit the company - explain that you hope to add value to the company, in either of these jobs.
Sample Cover Letter Applying for Two Jobs
The following is a cover letter example applying for two positions at the same company.
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
Your IT department has advertised two job openings for which my experience directly qualifies me. My nuclear power experience would translate well into the chemical industry. Both industries endure extreme regulatory pressure for environmental impact. I am extremely knowledgeable and familiar with this kind of regulatory environment and I recognize how vital IT is for the record keeping that is necessary for dealing with that kind of scrutiny.
My IT experience gives me a unique ability to apply technology, in all its forms, to business processes. Some of the business process knowledge includes accounting, finance, facilities, inventory control, budgeting, vendor management and various operational processes.
I have experience with merger/acquisition events, high growth challenges, technology replacement projects and IT process improvement. I have delivered large technology projects on schedule/on budget and in alignment with the business strategy. Companies I have worked for include Dakil Energy, Hoppy Rent a Car, Digit Equipment, and Miners Gas and Electric.
I would enjoy an opportunity to talk with you or someone in your organization to see where my skill set would be of the greatest benefit to your company. I know I could be a great asset to your department.
Your Signature (hard copy letter)
Your Typed Name
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