Job interviews are a lot like blind dates.
You go there in your best suit, ready to put your best put
forward. You barely know the person you’re going to meet. But you’re hoping to
make a good first impression and survive the ordeal without too much trouble.
If all goes well, you hit it off and you’re either invited
for a second interview or job offer.
If something goes wrong, you spend an entire meeting
suffering through one question after another. Sometimes you’re mumbling or babbling,
other times it feels like the interviewer is judging you.
Cover Letters, an Appetizer for Interviews
Cover letters and resumes, when used right, ease the blind
date problem in interviews. It serves as the interviewer’s primer on who you
are, and the talents you bring to the company.
This is all well and good for the recruiters. But what does
this have to do with you, the candidate?
The better the cover letter you write, the better your
chances of having a pleasant ‘blind date.’
A great cover letter can make an interviewer see your potential, increasing
your chances of having a great interview.
Follow-Along: Cover Letter Tips With Templates Samples That Can Get You Hired
1. In-Line or Attached Cover Letter?
Job postings requesting both an email cover
letter and a resume suggest that all applications are entered through an
Application Tracking System (ATS). In this case, include the cover letter and
resume as separate attachments in your application. Companies do this so they
can search their ATS for keywords, and print out documents for interviews.
2. Ideal Cover Letter Length
Don’t spill your whole resume here. The
cover letter’s main purpose is to get your resume read—it’s just a teaser.
And what are teasers? They’re short and on
point. Think of it as the email version of your elevator pitch. Write about who
you are, what you can do for the company, and a short background. Aim for
How Not to Waste Your Email Cover Letter Subject Line
lines are prime real estate for email job applications. It’s the first thing
the recruiter sees. If your subject looks spammy, it won’t reach the inbox. But
if it’s too vague, it won’t get read. You should master the fine line between
attention-grabbing and formal:
“A lot of recruiters and hiring managers will ask you to
put something specific in the subject. Make sure that you read the entire job
post. I’ve received lots of applications
that didn’t follow my request for a specific subject line. They were
automatically deleted,” says Jean Paldan, Managing Director at Rare Form New Media
3. The Most Accepted: Subject Lines with
Keywords or a Job Title
Among the recruiters I asked, this format
seems to be the most popular. Just use “Job
(Your Target Position).” Another format is “Application for +
You can also get a little creative. Try “Application
(Job Title): Your Search Ends Here”, suggested by Ali Mercier, Marketing Manager at
The Leadership Program.
4. Tough Competition? Try Subject Lines with
Attention Grabbing Statements
I got mixed reactions about creative subject lines.
In general, people hiring for big corporations prefer the standard approach
described above. But start-ups, creative jobs, and small business owners are
all for creative subject lines.
Here are a
couple of examples:
- Paldan suggests the following subject line, “I want to work with you.
(Something that” can turn into “I want to work with you. I’ll bring
reflects your personality or specific to the hiring company)
Arcuri, Manager at People2People, opened an application with the following
subject, “Hello…is it me you’re looking for?”
Here’s another good example,”
(Your– The Best
(Target Position)You’ll ever Have on Your Team”
5. Subject Line when You’re Referred by
Did someone pass your resume to the hiring team? Do
you know someone from the company? 40%
of hires are from
referrals, so mention it upfront to get the hiring manager’s attention.
- “Referred by
(Your Contact’s Full Name)for
(Your Contact’s Full Name)Referred me for the
6. Proper Salutations
Do your best to find the name of whoever is
in charge of the applications. Tried everything online without success? Call
the company and ask for the person in charge of hiring for your position.
For big businesses, it’s safer to use “Dear +
(Last Name).” Only a
professional acquaintance or previous working relationship with the hiring
manager earns you the use of “Dear +
(First Name)” or “Hi +
Opening Line Strategies
7. When You’re Prospecting for Vacancies
Think of your opening line as a hook, luring the reader to
find out more about you.
Here’s an opening line you can use if
there’s no job posting and you’re just getting in touch to see if they have a position
that might suit your skills. It’s also great for freelancer’s cold-emailing
(Interesting fact/new. I’m writing to you because
development about the company)
(adjective about you or your work) in
(specific job or industry). I’ve been
in this line of work for
(your website, sample, or other. I’d love to meet you to discuss how I can
be of service to
Cover Letter Example:
“I heard about your design company’s expansion down town. Congratulations! I’m writing because I’m a versatile Graphic Designer that can produce anything from web design, to brochures, and brand logos. I’ve been in this line of work for 7 years.
Check out my portfolio here Exampleportfolio.com. I’d love to meet you and talk about how I can be of service to XYZ Company.”
8. Used in Response to a Job Ad
Writing an opening line in response to a job
ad is easier, because you’re applying for a specific job and you have an ad to
1: Short and Sweet
for taking the time to read my application. I’d be an outstanding
(Job title) for
(Company Name). Here’s
list of achievements and skills here)”
Distinguish Yourself from Competition
you do, don’t choose anyone who thinks the
(Job Title) is all about
1 required skill in the position)
(Job Title’s) job isn’t just
(common skill),(common achievement or certificate required in the
. For me, it’s about
(deeper core and soft skills rarely mentioned by applicants).”
Cover Letter Sample:
“Whatever you do, don’t choose anyone who thinks being a Lead Developer is all about building apps that get downloaded. A Lead Developer’s job isn’t just about writing code or trouble shooting bugs. For me, it’s more about creating a solution to an existing problem, writing logical code that won’t drive someone else crazy, and encouraging your team to never stop learning.”
9. When Someone Referred You
Again, if someone referred you, mention it
as early as possible.
(Your contact’s name) suggested I email you regarding the
(Job Title) at
(job field) for
(he/she) thinks I’d be a good
fit for this position.”
Cover Letter Example:
“Alexis suggested I email you regarding the Network Administrator position at Acme IT Consulting. He and I have worked together in the IT Systems industry for 5 years, and he thinks I’d be a good fit for this position.”
10. Keyword Rich Opener
Use this type of opening line when you want
to play it safe, or you have no information about the company’s corporate
(Job Title) with extensive experience
(list of skills required in the job.
(Skills 3) are my specialty. With
(X Years) experience in the
(your industry), I assure
(Company Name) my hard work and
Email Cover Letter Sample:
“I’m a veteran UI/UX Designer with extensive experience in designing UIs for desktop sites, mobile, and apps. Designing content layout using Adobe Creative Suite and Illustrator, including sketching and executing responsive designs from collaborative meetings are my specialty. With 3 years’ experience in the design industry, I can assure Ajax Company my hard work and dedication.”
11. Fresh Graduate Opening Line
(Your Degree) and
hands-on experience in
(job-specific provided me with the skills I’ll need to fill the
(Target Job) vacancy in your office.
I’m eager to learn and would welcome the chance to bring my
(soft skills related to the job) to
work with your team at
Email Cover Letter Example:
“My coursework in Computer Science and hands-on experience in writing code, testing, and documentation provides me with the skills I’ll need to fill the Junior Developer vacancy in your office. I’m eager to learn and would welcome the chance to bring my organizational and problem-solving skills to work with your team at ABC Development.”
12. What to Include in Your Cover Letter Body
Here’s where you can include more details
about some of your key accomplishments, the how and why stories that were too
lengthy to include in your resume’s bullet points.
Telling stories isn’t the only option though.
You can also use this part to explain your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) as
a candidate. To do that, check out section 2 of this guide, Write Your Cover
Letter (Step by Step), step 2—Craft
Your Pitch and USP.
Different Closing Strategies
cover letter is only as good as its closing, so finish strong!
13. Specific Call to Action (CTA)
Want to get interviewed? Want to get your
resume read? Ask for it. Below are three ways to do it.
“I’m confident it would be a great idea
for us to meet and discuss this vacancy. Please email me at this address, or
call me at
schedule an interview.”
(Company Name)is eager to get the most
out of its
(job you’re applying for),
I encourage you to consider meeting me to discuss the specifics of this
position. If you have any questions or need additional information, you can
contact me at
14. Expressing Intent to Follow-Up
Want to take it further and increase the
chances of your resume getting read? Tell them you’ll call after a few days. Of
course, don’t forget to call them if you say you’re going to follow up. Be
proactive but polite and still respectful of the recruiter’s time.
Lots of applications, even promising ones,
often get lost in the pile. But this approach, when used correctly, can get you
(Contact’s Name), I look forward to speaking with you
personally to discuss the
how I can add value to your company. I’ll reach out to you next week to arrange
a time to schedule.”
“I’d love to
meet you to see if I can do for
(Companywhat I did for
I’m all about adding value and seeking a great fit with employers. I’ll be in
touch in a week to schedule an interview.”
15. Adding a Post Script
This is totally optional, so don’t add a PS
unless you have something genuine and memorable to say. Here’s where you
mention a great accomplishment, an interesting but not too personal trivial, or
something you love about the company. No gushing please!
Check out my resume to see how I earned my former employer over $15,000 in
sales in a month.”
Other Important Considerations Lots of Job Applicants Forget
Keywords vary from job to job, but you can
always find them on the job ad, or in the company’s website. Look for skills,
tools, certifications, and soft-skills on the job ad, and then try to
incorporate them on your cover letter.
No need to use them repeatedly, or force
all of them into your letter.
17. Formatting or Styling
You know how some email applications allow
you to include backgrounds and logos in your email? Skip it. Stick to simple Bolds and Italics when needed. Use
standard left-indent formatting, no double spaces and double spacing.
18. Customizing the Cover Letter for a Specific
“If you can change bits of your cover letter talk
directly to the company you are sending it to, making reference to their
culture, or something that only applies to that company, this will win you big
points”, says Paldan”
Paldan adds, “I
once got a cover letter from a programmer mentioning his ‘epic Nerf gun sniper
skills.’ But you won’t know about our Nerf gun collection unless you look
through our website. The applicant’s comment amused me, so I brought him in for
an interview even though we weren’t hiring.”
19. Have Someone Read it
Ask someone else to read your email cover letter out loud. Slowly.
This will help you detect awkward phrasing, too much boasting, and grammar
A phrase or sentence summarizing what you
bring to the company and your personality. It’s shorter than an elevator pitch.
Examples include, “Design made simple”
or “Passion, programming… and a lot of
No need to insert the whole letter. Just pick
the best snippets and put it in your cover letter body or post-script.
22. Mission Statement
A mission statement covers your personal
philosophy about your career and why you’re doing what you do.
For example, “Programmers can create products and technology that affect whole communities,
even the world. I can’t change the world (yet), but I can do my part by coding
one useful problem-solving app at a time.”
You Are the Product, Your Cover Letter and Resume Are the Ads
you’re too presumptuous, stop feeling sleazy about trying to sell yourself in
your cover letter and resume. That’s what they’re for.
you need more cover letter tips and inspiration, read through this collection of examples:
Resumes20 Cover Letter Examples
And good luck landing that new position!
Editorial Note: This content was originally published on May 31, 2016. We’re sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.