General Cover Letter Using P.S.
Many job seekers assume writing a cover letter is a waste of their time. I've been told, "nobody reads it." That's actually not true. Hiring managers usually open the cover letter and glance at it, BUT the moment they realize it's a boring regurgitation of your resume, they stop reading. While there are a host of things that make recruiters cringe when reading cover letters, it's when you start going on and on about all your accomplishments that makes them toss it.
So, what should go in your cover letter?
One of the biggest trends in cover letters right now is the concept of "disrupting" the reader. When you surprise them, or as we like to say, get them at "hello," you create a connection that sparks greater interest in you as a candidate. In the marketing world, this technique is called "storytelling." And, it's how companies get us to go from knowing nothing about them, to falling in love with them.
Tell them about a time when
At my company, we offer cover letter reviews as part of our service. We literally read hundreds of cover letters each week, offering advice on how to tweak them to be more disruptive. More than a few of our members deal with initial writer's block. So, when our clients are stumped on what to write, I tell them to do the following:
1. Identify what the company does that is different, special, and unique.
2. Think about the job you are applying for and how you've come to learn its importance.
3. Ask yourself what life experiences have taught you how the work the company does makes a difference.
When you find the answers to the questions above, you can start to connect the dots between your values and beliefs and those of the employer. This is the story you should tell. This is the story they really want to hear.
Example: "Your hospital equipment made my grandma's final days peaceful."
Let me give you an example of how this works
One of our members want to apply for a business development role at a medical equipment supplier. When I asked him the questions above, he shared a moving story about his grandmother's final days of life in the local hospital. Several of the pieces of equipment in her room had the logo of the company on it. So, in his cover letter, he shared this story and how he knew their products made a difference in the lives of the patients AND the loved ones watching them suffer. By showcasing his personal connection to the mission of the company, he proved he'd be a good candidate for the role. (In case you're wondering, yes, he got the interview.)
P.S. - It helps to get the cover letter in someone's hands.
While this storytelling technique can improve the chances you get an interview, it doesn't help you get through the company's online ATS. That's why if you take the time to write one, you should also go the extra step and do what you can to network into the company so you can get your disruptive cover letter in someone's hands. Or, at least directly in their email inbox. ATS systems are designed to weed you out and have no way to tell a good cover letter from a lousy one. Besides, with most jobs being gotten via referral today, it's in your best interest to go around the online system and try to get your credentials to a human being!
Writing a convincing cover letter is a key part of landing more interviews. Even with weak experience, a well-written letter can help you get your foot in the door. Follow our guide to get yours right.
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Table of Contents
- How to Write a Cover Letter 5 Rules and 7 Sections
- Formatting Guidelines (Margins, Fonts, Alignment)
- Defeating Applicant Tracking Systems
How to Write a Cover Letter: 5 Rules & 7 Sections
If you follow the 5 rules and include the 7 sections outlined below, youll write a masterful letter that will land you more interviews.
If you need inspiration, browse our huge database of cover letter examples by industry.
The 5 Golden Rules
1. All cover letters should follow the same 7 section template outlined below While yours will probably only be four paragraphs, weve separated it into 7 must-have sections that need explanation.
2. All cover letters should be one page or less You wont land a job by writing a novel. Some hiring managers even say that you shouldnt write more than words though that is up for debate. However, make sure it isnt too short either.
3. Make sure its error free It goes without saying, but well say it again. Check your cover letter for spelling mistakes and grammar errors. It can happen to the best of us. Dont be arrogant, just double check.
4. Write like a human being, and not like an awkward robot Heres an example of what some people think of is good writing. I am thoroughly delighted by the prospect of joining your illustrious organization, and believe I would make a potent addition were you to acquire my requisite skills and abilities. Thats a terrible sentence. If you sound like a robot that has memorized a thesaurus, youre doing it wrong.
Heres what that sentence really says: Im thrilled to be applying for your company, because I have proven skills that will make a strong addition to your team. Just say it that way like a human being.
Cover letters are not the place to be overly creative. If you’re thinking of writing something wacky, goofy, interesting, different, or unique — don’t.
5. Dont be a bombastic weirdo Cover letters are not the place to be overly creative. If youre thinking of writing something wacky, goofy, interesting, different, or unique dont. Doing so will be a dead end for your job prospects.
But that doesnt mean you have to be a robot, or write with a dry tone. Youll have the opportunity to show your creativity in a smart way the key is to understand whats acceptable, and whats out of bounds.
So what is acceptable? Read on to learn everything you need to make that 7 section template do good work, and land you more interviews.
7 Must-Have Sections
Section 1: Contact Details (Yours and the Hiring Mangers)
Include the following information at the top of your cover letter.
First, your contact details
- Your Name
- Your Address
- Phone Number
- Linkedin URL (Optional)
Next, the date and hiring managers contact details
- Todays Date
- Company Address
- Company Phone Number
- Hiring Managers Email Address
Heres what that would look like:
Section 2: The Greeting
Believe it or not, the way you say hello to someone youve never met makes an impression. If your greeting is clunky and sounds bad, it will spoil the rest of your cover letter, even if its awesome. Imagine sitting for a four course meal if your appetizer is a rotten egg, how are you going to feel about the roast chicken?
The clunkiest greeting phrase in English is the following: To whom it may concern. Dont serve up that rotten egg to the hiring manager. Heres another bad one, Dear Sir or Madam. Only people wearing top hats can say that.
Heres what you should do instead: do your best to research who the hiring manager is at the company. Were aware that sometimes its not possible to find out who the hiring manager is. So what can you do in that case?
1. Find out the name of the Department Manager Its likely this person will be involved with hiring you. Even if they are not the direct hiring manager, addressing the letter at them will show that you put in some effort. But what if you cant find this persons name?
2. Find out the name of the Human Resources director You can address your cover letter to him or her, and it will still show that youve put in some effort to connect with a real human being. For bonus points, you could ask the HR who is responsible for hiring, and then address the correct person. But what if you cant find the HR directors name?
3. Find out the name of the CEO or Vice President If you cant find the department manager or HR director, youre likely dealing with a very small or new startup. In this case, the CEO, Vice President, or someone else that sounds important may be responsible for hiring.
Warning: You also may be dealing with a scam company. Companies that are short on details may be hiding something.
If you cant find *their* names either? Simply write:
Dear Hiring Manager,
It is the best you can do. And its way better than the rotten egg, To whom it may concern.
Section 3: Introduce Yourself
The first sentence
Dont start with: My name is _____. Your name is already in the contact details at the top of the cover letter!
Do start with: Getting straight to the point. Tell the hiring manager that youre excited to be applying for the job.
You may have read elsewhere on the web that you should grab attention with a passionate introduction that is humorous. Dont do that, unless you want to look like a goofball. Hiring managers are not children that you need to entertain they are serious professionals. Grabbing their attention will require sophistication not clownish haw-haw jokes.
Examples of Introductory Statements
- Im thrilled to be applying for the open ____ position at [Target Company].
- Im writing to apply for the new and exciting role at [Target Company].
- Im glad to have the opportunity to apply for the [job title] job at [Target Company].
The next sentences
Its easy tell the hiring manager why youre excited to be applying for the job. There could be a number of reasons:
1. You like the company We all have companies that we admire and would like to work for. If you have the lucky opportunity to apply for a company that you like, mention it! Most importantly, tell the hiring manager why you like the company. After all, if you tell someone you love the company and cant explain why, its going to look like a lie.
2. You think the the opportunity is interesting Even if you dont know the company, the job role itself may pique your interest, or line up with your passions. If thats the case, tell the hiring manager why its interesting to you, and how it fits with your passions.
3. You have the perfect (or related) skill set to perform the job well Maybe you dont like the company, or think the opportunity is interesting. But you need the job, so youd like to land it anyway thats perfectly normal. The hiring manager likely knows its not a dream job, so lying about your passion for the role would backfire. In this case, just emphasize that youre perfect for the job because you have the required skill set.
Ideally, youd use all three of these reasons to explain your excitement for applying for the job. While #1 and #2 are optional, #3 emphasizing that you have the right skills is essential. If you cant use any of those reasons, you should think twice about applying for that job.
Section 4: Pitch and Prove Yourself
This is the part the hiring manager cares about the most — he or she needs to see hard evidence that you can actually do the job.
In the meat of your cover letter, youll prove that you have the right skills for the job. This is the part the hiring manager cares about the most he or she needs to see hard evidence that you can actually handle the work. Choose two to three of your biggest achievements related to the job role, and include them in your writing.
In the following dos/donts section, weve written the same cover letter twice to show the difference between whats bad and whats good.
Dont write: Generic, boring, and cliched sentences.
Dont write example: “I’m a quick starter with bundles of enthusiasm and real team player. I’m also really hard working, have excellent interpersonal skills, and am also highly motivated. In my past job, I sold electronics to customers and was considered highly successful. Overall, management was proud of my work and would frequently commend me.
- Blue cliches
- Pink generic
- Orange boring
Do write: Precise & detailed information that is quantified.
Do write example: “During my first year at Electronic Appliances LLC, I increased my departments revenue by over 30%. My passion for the electronic retail industry reveals itself in my approach to my customers; I recently won a regional award for maintaining a 95% customer satisfaction rate, and an award for exceeding an 8%month-on-month sales target over one year.
- Blue precise & detailed
- Pink quantified
As you can see, the second cover letter gives you much clearer idea of this salespersons skill. You should aspire to reach this level of clarity, because it will make you stand out from your competition.
Section 5: Conclusion
Your conclusion should accomplish the following goals:
To make your cover letter convincing, you should emphasize that your proven skills will help the company achieve its goals.
1. Re-iterating that youre excited for the job, and that youre the best choice to help the company To make your cover letter convincing, you should emphasize that your proven skills will help the company achieve its goals. It will require doing some research on your part, but the end result will be an application that makes the hiring manager say, Wow, this person gets it.
2. Letting them know youre available for an interview anytime If youre in the same city, emphasize that youd love to have a face-to-face interview. Dont be picky about timing in your cover letter, even if youre busy. Let them contact you first, and then hammer out an appropriate meeting time.
3. Thanking them for taking the time to read your cover letter A quick thank you goes a long way to show that youre a respectful and empathetic person. Reading job applications is a chore. By now, youve done your best to jazz your letter up and make it a quick, easy, and worthwhile read but the hiring manager has probably read several. Thank them for reading yours until the end.
Section 6: Signing off
We recommend you stick to the following sign offs:
- Best regards,
- Warm regards,
- Kind regards,
- All the best,
(Optional) Section 7: The Hook P.S.
P.S. Do you want to add a little flavor to your cover letter? Adding a postscript (P.S.) is the perfect way add a little hook that will distinguish you even more from other candidates.
Lets say you found the hiring managers Linkedin page, and you noticed that you share an interest, or worked at the same company, or attended the same University, etc.
While its not really appropriate to put this information into the body of your writing, the P.S. is a great place to be a little more informal. Its your opportunity to wink at the hiring manager and show some personality in a smart way.
Something like this: P.S. I noticed that were both alumni of Clemson University with degrees in Marketing. Did you know Professor Jones? Scariest professor ever, but one of the most influential.
Cover Letter Formatting Guidelines (Fonts, Margins, Alignment)
Are you having trouble making your letter look like its one page, or interested in creating your own design? Make sure you follow some basic margin, font, and styling guidelines.
- Left and Right Should always be equal. Never below , and never above
- Top Never below , and never above
- Bottom Never above , never below
Here are two examples using those margin guidelines above.
In the first, we use the maximum margin settings for top, bottom, left and right margins. This allows you to make your cover letter look like a full page, if you dont have enough content.
Thats why this one is called the Space User.
In the second example, we use the minimum margin settings for top, bottom, left and right margins. This allows the most possible text to be put on the page.
Thats why this one is called the Space Saver.
- Style Typically, font choice is a matter of preference. We suggest you stick with Georgia, Arial, or Times New Roman.
- Size Dont go below an point font. Really, you should stick with 12, and play with the margins if you need to fit the content onto one page.
- Left aligned Anything else looks strange.
Defeating Applicant Tracking Systems
Some Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) will read your cover letter to assess if youre a good fit for the job, (and theyll also look at your resume.) Basically, the software will read your cover letter, and determine if youve included enough job-relevant keywords. If you did include enough keywords congratulations, your application will be looked at by a real human being. If you didnt include enough keywords, the ATS will assume that youre not a relevant candidate, and reject you.
What does it mean to include keywords?
A good way to figure out which keywords you should use is to look at the hiring manager’s job description for the role you’re applying for.
Ever job title and industry has different tasks, duties, and tools associated with it. For instance, if youre an accountant, youre going to manage accounts and balance budgets, use Excel or SQL Databases, and generate financial reports. All of the text in pink are keywords that an ATS would read if it was judging and accounting resume or cover letter.
The takeaway: If you forget to include keywords (or you simply cant), youre going to get rejected.
How many keywords, and which ones, should you include?
A good way to figure out which keywords you should use is to look at the hiring managers job description for the role youre applying for. The job description will have most of the keywords you should include do your best to sprinkle them where you can. As far as how many keywords you should include just be natural. Dont stuff your cover letter with keywords (or your resume for that matter).