How To Write A Professional Cover Letter

‘Cover letter writing? Oh No,’ the common response form most of job seekers.

Agree or not, all of us have struggled to write a perfect cover letter at some or the other time that can complement your professional resume.

Even a writer can find the process of writing a cover letter daunting.

Why does we find writing a professional cover letter an overwhelming task?

Why can’t we write a good cover letter that catches an employer's attention?

What am I supposed to include?

Should I use, “To Whom It May Concern”?

And most important questions:

Do recruiters even read our cover letter?

The answer is – Yes, cover letter does get read.
Not just that, for many of the recruiters, cover letter is one of the most important elements.

‘Why so’, you may ask.

A professionally written cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd.

Despite knowing this, most of job seekers either don’t write a cover letter or do a half-hearted job.

The result - most of cover letters basically looks the same.

Don’t do that.

Always try to write a custom cover letter for each job application.

Here's a list of top cover letter tips you need to know to write a professional cover letter that truly helps you get the job.
Ready to get started?
Here we go.

1. Don’t Copy Your Resume Content

Many people make this mistake. They simply copy paste their resume summary and key points with altered structure.

Focus on using additional details that you couldn’t put into the single page resume. Expand on your attitude, achievements and other characteristics and tell the story of why you’re the perfect fit for the given job.

You can use your cover letter to show your persona, interest and how you’re the best candidate for that job. Talk about the industry you’re working in and how it has evolved over the years.

Use it to show expertise and interest.

2. Address Nobody In Case Of Ambiguity

If you know whom you are writing to, good.

Otherwise avoid addressing your cover letter to anyone.

And that may be the case in several job applications where you won't know who is going to read your cover letter.

Stay away from cliched ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or "To Whom It May Concern".

You can keep it simple like ‘Hi’ ‘or Hello’.

3. Showcase Your Skills in Emphatic Manner

Cover letter is one more chance to showcase your skills effectively.

This becomes much more critical when you possess the right skill but lacks the relevant experience.

Therefore, craft your letter in such manner that recruiters can see your key skills and why they must choose despite lacking the relevant experience.

4. Be Clear What Must be Included

It’s an important point to be clear about – what to include and what to exclude.

It’s not entirely different from a standard business letter. At the end of the day, cover letter is also a formal letter.

  • your name and the date
  • the hiring manager’s name (if you know)
  • a greeting/salutation (e.g., Dear Mr. Chip,)
  • an opening statement - paragraph #1
  • short body paragraph (or two) - paragraph #2 & #3
  • closing statement - paragraph #3 or #4
  • complimentary close (e.g., Regards, Sincerely)
  • and your name/signature at the bottom.
Don’t mention your education details.

Cover letter is not fit for that.

Several freshers make this mistake. They emphasize too much on their educational details.

Education is important but what really matter to the employer is your skill-set.

It’s an important point to be clear about – what to include and what to exclude.

It’s not entirely different from a standard business letter. At the end of the day, cover letter is also a formal letter.

To detail out the cover letter structure, follow this:

  • Introduce yourself to the hiring manager
  • Make your case why you’d be a good fit for the job
  • Talk about things your resume couldn’t
  • Further explain other aspects of your resume
  • Conclude the cover letter

5. Follow The KISS Principle

KISS – Keep It Simple and Short.

Yes, simplicity and brevity always win over complexity and over lengthy stuff.

Cover letter is no exception in this case.

In other words, less is more when it comes to writing a cover letter.

Maximum four paragraphs.

Nothing beyond that.

Maximum Half a page.

Use short sentences.

Come to the main point faster and make the most of your cover letter.

6. Leverage Numbers To Highlight Your Career Achievements

You must have heard this ‘numbers often speak louder than words.’

This applies fully to the job search industry.

Empty words can’t showcase your skill and experience as much as specific numbers.

Especially HR managers love these numbers that demonstrates your past achievements as they are tangible and measurable.

Compare these two statements:

I am very hard working, sincere and team man who always focus on the work and deliver it on time.

AND

I have used unique digital marketing strategies to increase the website traffic by 42%, that resulted into 31% more leads and higher sales worth $2 Million.

Which one sound more impressive?

Without doubt, it’s the 2nd one that shows the actual impact made measured by numbers.

7. Don’t Be Too Formal

Resume is the right tool to be formal.

However, while writing a good cover letter, you can afford to be bit more informal.

Avoid writing cliched sentences or phrases like

‘Dear Sir/Madam’

OR

‘I wish to cordially express my sincere gratitude...’

Always, use the first person on your cover letter.

Use language that demonstrates your passion to for the job clearly.

In other words, show your human side as there is another human at the other end reading your cover letter.

8. Choose the Right Font That Improves Readability

Choosing the right font type, size and color is very important.

After all, if you do everything right in your cover letter but go with a wrong font then all your efforts are down the drain.

It's vital to select a font that is easy to read.

Your font should be large enough so that the reader’s eyes don’t get strained.

It shouldn’t be too big too that it becomes a challenge to fit it in one page.


There are a lot of simple yet good fonts available online.

Basic fonts like Arial, Cambria, Calibri, Verdana, Courier New, and Times New Roman work well.

Serif fonts are said to be easier to read, though sans serif fonts are much more modern.

Avoid cursive fonts or anything too fancy or weird on your cover letter.

9. Make Your Cover Letter More About Them, Less About You

Remember, resume is about you and cover letter must be about the company/profile/industry.

So, it’s always advisable to write the cover letter from recruiter’s perspective.

RIGHT:
I believe that you will find me a perfect match for your company's culture and mission statement...

WRONG
I am interested in this job because I like this and I want that...

The idea is to build a story that interest them more as it must adress their needs effectively.

For every single sentence you put in your cover letter, ask yourself: “Is this relevant to the recruiter?”

If not, then remove it.

That way you will ensure that you would write what recruiter is actually looking to read in a cover letter.

10. Use Keywords to Pass the ATS Gatekeeper

Don’t forget the big brother – ATS or Applicant Tracking System.

Applicant tracking system software provides recruiting and hiring tools for companies.

When you apply for a job online, your resume isn’t typically going directly to a recruiter or hiring manager.

It’s first being processed by an ATS based on the relevant keywords put in the resumes.

An ATS-optimized resume and cover letter is the first step to getting past the bots and face to face with an actual person.

Applicant tracking systems collect and store resumes and cover letters in a database for hiring professionals to access.

Resumes and cover letters may also be stored long after the original job you applied for is filled.

If you’re applying to a large organization, chances are you’ll face an ATS.

If you’re applying through any online form, you’re applying through an ATS.

Even job sites like Indeed and LinkedIn have their own built in ATS.

Applicant tracking systems keep all these resumes and cover letters in one place, helping recruiters and hiring managers stay organized.

Whether that human recruiter ever sees your resume could depend on how well your resume is optimized for ATS algorithms.

If your cover letter (and resume too) is not using the relevant keywords, then it

Final Thoughts

Writing a highly contextual and professional cover letter is easier said than done.

Hence, be ready to spend a great amount of effort on your cover letter.

You can even take professional help and hire cover letter writing experts from CV Owl.

Feel free to checkout CV Owl’s Free Cover Letter Builder.

At the end of the day, your key goal is to ensure that your cover letter is read by the hiring manager.

Got any questions on our cover letter tips?

Think any important tips can be added to this list?

Got any more advice and tips on cover letters?

Feel free to tweet us at @CV_OWL or reach out to us for resume writing and cover letter writing services.