Ask Vicki: What are the steps to writing a perfect cover letter?
In this answer on Quora, Monster career expert Vicki Salemi tells you how to create a great cover letter, one sentence at a time.
Each week, Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi—a former recruiter who utilizes 15-plus years of experience in recruiting and human resources to empower job seekers—answers user questions on Quora. We’ll be republishing the answers here. If you have a question for Vicki, send it to email@example.com.
Q. What are the steps to writing the perfect cover letter?
A. The perfect cover letter is formal and succinct, and it highlights an accomplishment and why you’re a great fit for the company. Review the job description to see what desired qualities the company is looking for, and address those directly.
A cover letter is not about why you want to work at the company; instead it’s about why the company should want to hire you. Assume you’re giving your elevator pitch answer to that question. The steps to writing a perfect cover letter include:
1. The salutation is very important. If you know the hiring manager’s name, definitely use it. If not, write “To whom it may concern” or “Dear employer.” Never—I repeat never—write “Dear sirs.” You’re assuming the reader is always a man, which is a big no-no.
2. In the body of your letter, reference the job you’re applying to in case your cover letter is separated from your resume. “I’m interested in applying to job #xhz sales associate in your Stamford office.”
3. Explain why you’re the quintessential fit for the job by highlighting your achievements. “Your ad indicated you’re looking for a rock star, so look no further! Last year I earned $2 million in sales and landed the top sales award in my company’s national organization. I live for this and look forward to possibly contributing my prowess to your organization, too.”
4. Your conclusion should be formal and appreciative. “Thank you for your time and consideration. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon. Sincerely, xxxx.”
Read Vicki Salemi's answer to "What are the steps to writing a perfect cover letter?" on Quora.
Cover letter help
By Mark Swartz
Monster Senior Contributing Writer
When you submit a resume in response to an advertised job, are you also including a customized cover letter? If not, you should really think about doing so from now on.
Cover letters can improve your chances of getting contacted for an interview. They show how eager you are to work for the specific employer you’re applying to. And you can let a bit of your personality come through in ways your resume doesn’t allow for.
It’s a fact, however, that not all employers (or recruiters) take the time to read cover letters. But you should include one just in case. To simplify things for yourself, create a single, standardized cover letter, one that you can easily modify – by addressing it to a specific person at the company you’re applying to, or by highlighting some of your work accomplishments that tie back to their job ad – each time you apply to a new company.
We thought it would be helpful to gather in one article some of the most frequently asked questions Monster.ca gets about cover letters. We’ve done so below. See our brief answers to the top 10 cover letter questions. You’ll also find links to our related articles for in-depth details.
Top 10 Questions About Cover Letters
10. What’s The Real Purpose Of A Cover Letter?
It's important to remember that the cover letter, like the resume, is a marketing tool. Use it to show how your experience and skills can directly help the employer. Doing so demonstrates to them that you have taken the time to customize your application to meet their needs. This, along with your resume, might be just the ticket to getting chosen for a job interview. Cover letter in response to a job posting on Monster.ca.
9. What Exactly Should I Put In My Cover Letter, And What Should I Leave Out?
Highlight your relevant work history, educational background, and earned credentials. Make sure they come close to matching what the employer’s job posting asks for. However just like with your resume, certain information should not be revealed to employers. Otherwise you might be exposing yourself to potential discrimination. Your age and marital status should be left off. Also your religion (and country of origin if it happens to be other than Canada).
8. How Should I Format My Cover Letter?
Typically a cover letter is set up like any other business letter. It starts with the contact information of the person you’re addressing the letter to. Then it states the subject of the letter, which might include the name or reference number of the job you’re applying for. Following this is the body of the letter: why you believe you’re qualified for this job, a bit about your relevant work history, how it is you’re interested in working for this particular employer, ending with how you plan to follow up. Want more info? Suggested Cover Letter Format. Good Looking Cover Letters. Cover Letter Etiquette.
7. What Are The Worst Cover Letter Mistakes?
Writing endlessly about how wonderful you are – without backing it up. Forgetting to mention why you truly want to work for this specific employer. Addressing the cover letter “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Employer,” which reveals that this is a broadcast letter, not a targeted marketing tool. Try to Avoid These 7 Killer Cover Letter Mistakes. And read about these Ten Cover Letter Don'ts.
6. Are There Cover Letter Samples For Different Situations I Can Access For Free?
Absolutely. Monster.ca has collected a number of cover letter samples for different positions (such as Office Coordinator or Purchasing Assistant) and for several types of career circumstances (e.g. Mid-Career Cover Letter Sample and Career Change Cover Letter Sample).
5. Who Can I Get To Review My Cover Letter For Errors and Effectiveness?
Proofreading is a skill that not everyone possesses. That’s why people decide to reach out for a second opinion. You can get others to review your cover letter for free (trusted friends, recruiters and local career centers), though it may pay dividends to hire a professional cover letter/resume writer for an experienced opinion.
4. How Do I Handle Sticky Situations In My Cover Letter?
If you’ve recently been downsized, or have been out of the workforce on an extended leave, it’s a good idea to mention this in your cover letter. The goal is to inform the employer of your circumstances while minimizing any concerns they might have. Read more about how to handle sticky situations in your cover letter.
3. What Is The Best Way To Include A Cover Letter Along With My Resume?
When you apply to a job posting online, you can include your cover letter as text, right in the body of your e-mail. Caution is advised though: you don’t want to send an email with fancy fonts and designs if the recipient is using a plain-text email client. Read more about the proper ways of Emailing Cover Letters and Attachments.
2. Do I Need To State My “Objective” In My Cover Letter?
Not necessarily. Have you read about how to Replace the Resume Objective with a Personal Brand Statement? In a similar vein here’s How to Include Your Personal Brand Statement in Your Cover Letter. Furthermore you can simply state that you are applying for the position as it’s listed in the job ad.
1. Are There Ways To Increase The Impact Of My Cover Letter?
One way to distinguish yourself in a cover letter is to Customize Your Cover Letter to the Job Ad. Show employers that you are genuinely qualified for the exact job they’re offering. Also capture their attention right from the start with New Beginnings for Your Cover Letter.