What Does a Good Cover Letter Look Like in 2020 [+Samples]

Authored by Yevheniia Khromova (Career Expert, GetCoverLetter)

Richard Branson, British entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, once wrote on Twitter, “I often make up my mind about someone within 30 seconds of meeting them.” He spoke about his wife Joan, whom he met 44 years ago. But what if you only had 30 seconds to make a first impression on the recruiter? It can be one of the most important moments of your life and a turning point in your career. Your cover letter is the first thing the potential employer sees about you. It’s your ticket to the job race.

Why is Cover Letter Important?

The purpose of a cover letter is simple: to get the recipient to read your CV and get you invited to an interview. It can convince the employer to invite you to an interview, even if your resume is not the best. According to a CareerBuilder Survey, 45% of candidates ignore writing a cover letter when applying for a job. Meanwhile, recruiters explain the reason for 10% of rejections in the selection process is the lack of a cover letter. 

There are two key reasons why a cover letter is crucial: 

  1. A cover letter can sell a candidate beyond the typical listing of work experience and skills in a resume.
  2. A cover letter is supposed to show aspects that usually are not indicated in the CV. It can be used to provide more description about:
  3. achievements;
  4. personal qualities;
  5. portfolio of works;
  6. and the motivation and interest of the applicant in a particular vacancy.

Now let’s try to find an answer to the question, “What is a cover letter supposed to look like?”

What Will Ruin Your Cover Letter?

The Managing Editor of Business Insider, Jessica Liebman, has a folder on her Gmail called “Worst Cover Letters.” You will be surprised how many of the mistakes in these letters can be considered typical. Thus, even though these might be obvious things, let’s talk about them in more detail:

  • Cover letters are too long or too short.

A wordy cover letter can be considered as a waste of time by the recruiter. Employers do not want to invest their limited time in reading three pages of text where the candidate only applauds themselves (which is another common mistake). Meanwhile, other applicants write 1-2 lines like, “Please, find my CV enclosed.”

So, how long should a cover letter be? Saddleback College reported that 70% of employers wanted a cover letter of less than a full-page. This size is quite enough to highlight some important things without coming off as a talkative person.

  • The applicant overpraises themself.

It is vital to present your skills and achievements to prove to the company that you will meet the requirements of a specific position. But no one is interested in your screaming success in the school dance competition or other achievements not relevant to the job. Provide only actual data.

  • Cover letters are written from an applicant’s point of view.

No need to start every sentence with ‘I.’ It sounds a bit ‘ego’ maniac. Tell more about what you can bring to the company instead.

  • Candidates present negative information about themselves.

Underestimating yourself or drawing attention to the skills or knowledge you currently lack is never a good start. It is a bad idea to emphasize things you don’t have.

  • The content of the resume becomes an essential part of a cover letter.

Don’t use your cover letter to repeat information that is in your resume. A cover letter is not a presentation of your job history, but rather an opportunity to stand out by emphasizing your interest in the vacancy for a job.

  • The text contains spelling, grammatical, and syntax errors.

Typos and grammatical errors can be considered as evidence of your negligence or even illiteracy. It is not the best way of presenting yourself as a professional person. Use the Hemingway App to make your cover letter easy-to-read and Grammarly to find grammar mistakes.

Don’t Do Like This

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have seen your advertisement on various websites and feel that you are ideally placed to help me further my professional development.

I have enjoyed a successful career as an experienced professional in management, training, counseling, and sales/marketing activities in IT. I currently work for one of the leading companies in the field, and I am looking to expand my experience by moving to another company.

I have enclosed my CV for your consideration. I am aware that its presentation is not ideal, and I am working on an improved format.

I would welcome an opportunity to discuss my experience, and I am interested in any possibility of becoming part of your company. I will call you next week.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. X

In general, these are basic mistakes that are regularly repeated in letters. But, of course, one of the most common problems is laziness. Sometimes, applying for several different positions, the candidate is too lazy to prepare several cover letters. An office-seeker who sends the same letter to various companies is hardly interested in a specific job, and the company understands this.

Do you think that writing a cover letter is too complicated for you? Take a look at template samples and examples for writing a good cover letter on different websites to build your perfect text with a proper format. Online builders help you understand what a professional cover letter looks like. Additionally, you will get tips and recommendations on writing it for any industry in several simple steps.

Below we will guide you through some expert advice on how to write a great cover letter.

What Should a Cover Letter Look Like

A professional cover letter should include several important parts:

  • Greeting
  • Introductory Paragraph
  • The body of the letter including your qualifications (one to three paragraphs or a list of bullet points)
  • Closing
  • Signature (include your contact information when sending an email letter)

Greeting

Starting a letter with the right tone is vital in official written correspondence. If you have a contact person, be sure to include their name in your letter.

For example:

Dear Hiring Manager (if you don’t have a contact person)

Dear Mr. X

Dear Ms. X

Try to avoid “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” because It is like saying, “I don’t care who you are, and I’m too lazy to find out.”

The Introduction

In the first part of the cover letter, be sure to state what prompted you to contact the employer. A good tip is to use the sales strategy of beginning with the word, ‘Your.’ The Muse offers some examples of eye-catching openings that help your cover letter to attract attention.

Here are some examples:

  1. Your company has an excellent reputation in…
  2. Your ad is an amazing opportunity to…
  3. Your recent results…

 Employers are bound to be interested in what is happening from their point of view.

The Body of the Letter

In the middle part of the cover letter, you should customize your CV and direct the reader to some unique selling point that meets or hits a specific need of the potential employer.

The body of a cover letter includes paragraphs stating why you consider yourself a suitable and qualified candidate for this position:

  • Why you are writing.
  • How you are qualified for the job.
  • What your core strengths are.
  • Appreciation for being considered for the position.

Be specific by referencing the employer’s job requirements as listed in the job posting in this part of your cover letter. Read the announcement carefully, paying attention to the keywords and selection criteria for the position. Compare their requirements with your previous successful experience.

Your compelling story should describe how you can best make an immediate contribution and help solve the employer’s problems.

The Closing

In the last part, you should express your desire to continue communication via further discussion or a meeting. Once again, you can confirm your sincere interest in the position at the end of the cover letter. And don’t forget to provide your contact information.

More Tips for Perfect Cover Letter

1.   Avoid Clichés

Are you a “self-motivated,” “result driven” “team-player” who “thinks outside the box,” and works “in synergy with colleagues.” Do you present yourself as an “effective problem solver”?

The use of such typical clichés will only make your cover letter generic, and no one will remember it. It is better to describe your work experience in concrete terms and provide hard evidence of your achievements.

2.   Re-read Your Cover Letter Over and Over. And Over!

Do not even think about submitting your cover letter without editing and proofreading. Print it first and read it aloud. Another recommendation is to read the cover letter starting with the last sentence and working all the way up. It is also recommended that  you ask someone to read it. Four eyes see more than two.

Example of What a Good Cover Letter Looks Like

John Smith

Business Analyst

11111 Some Street

22222 Sometown

123-456-7890, smith.analyst@email.com

Samantha Benks,

Hiring Manager of X Company

Dear Samantha,

After reading the X Company advertisement on the Y website, I decided to apply immediately. Your company is included in the list of the 50 largest private companies in the country, and I believe that I can become a valuable part of it.

With my four years of experience in supporting business solutions and analyzing operations, I can arrange a business strategy plan for short and long term growth. Using creative and innovative methods, I integrated modern digital tools that led to a 20% increase in workflow efficiency.

My position in company Z taught me a structural approach based on an assessment of facts and risks. I developed leadership skills through the organization of 3 international events within the Y company projects and improved my presentation skills by participating in several conferences and seminars.

This letter and my CV provide the basis of my career achievements, but I would be pleased to flesh them out at a personal meeting to see if there is an opportunity to work with your company.

Yours sincerely,

John

Conclusion

Writing a cover letter is not an exact science, but some exact patterns that can help you craft a great cover letter include:

  • make it less than 1 page (200-250 words)
  • keep it easy-to-read
  • write different cover letters for several job listing
  • do your homework and research the company you want to work for
  • balance confidence and humility

Following these tips, your cover letter will do its job and gain the recruiter’s attention. Good luck with the job search!

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