Best Practices for Cover Letters

Updated on February 3, 2024

Many companies require cover letters from applicants but it can be hard to know what to write on a cover letter. Use the cover letter to get the job by following these best practices.

Best Practices for Cover Letters

While your resume or CV is where the focus of your effort goes when looking for a job, a well-designed, polished cover letter can encourage a recruiter to consider your resume. A well-written cover letter shows you understand the job you’re applying for; you have a desire to obtain that job and that your next document will highlight why you are the ideal candidate for the job.

When it comes to writing cover letters, particularly in the tech industry, there are a few best practices to follow. As cover letters are still required for most job applications, they are a short, concise yet important part of your application. The following best practices will help you create your perfect cover letter for any job.

Start Off Right

Your cover letter should start with a salutation. The company culture and tone you’re going for should guide what type of salutation you use. Always address the person responsible for the recruiting or hiring process. If you can’t determine who that is, use a more generic salutation. Some examples you may use include:

  • Dear (company name) Recruiter
  • Dear Head of (department you’re applying for)
  • Dear (name of person reading your resume)
  • Dear Hiring Manager

Be enthusiastic in your first line of your cover letter. Share your excitement about the job or the field. Be original but highlight why you find the company exciting and one you want to work with.

Discover the Company’s Tone

Cover letters are often dry and boring. One way to spice them up is to research the company and determine what type of tone they are looking for. Study their company culture. Are they a company that values creativity or problem solving, or do they prefer a more traditional line of thinking? The first part of writing a good cover letter is learning about the people you could be working with.

Developing a connection with the reader helps you stand out, and creates a good conversation point in an interview. The best way to develop that connection is to write a cover letter that matches the tone of the company.

Know Your Audience

It’s hard to find the balance between a cover letter and resume that highlights your achievements without focusing too much on you. To walk this fine line, focus your cover letter on specific accomplishments and include them in the context of how they can benefit your potential employer.

Consider who is going to see your cover letter. Is it a small enough company that you may interview with the CEO or founder? Or will you go through a human resources representative or a recruiter? This can also affect how you craft your cover letter, whether you start from scratch or use a cover letter generator.

Link Soft and Hard Skills to Achievements

While hard skills (degrees, certifications and work experience) are often the focus of a resume, soft skills (communication, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence) are just as important. If you can link those skills to your achievements, you’ll stand out immediately.

Rather than listing your skills out on a cover letter, share how your skills add value to the team or the company. Feel free to include a personal story if it feels right. This can help you make a personal connection with a recruiter and make you memorable to whoever is reviewing the applications.

When you address your hard and soft skills, make sure to design them around the job description. Many recruiters use applicant tracking systems that scan for specific keywords or phrases. If those aren’t in your cover letter, you may get passed by.

Find the Line Between Excitement and Desperation

You come across a job you are really excited about, that you feel you are a perfect fit for. More than anything, you want those in charge of hiring to see how your resume matches perfectly with the job description. This excitement shows you have energy and are ready to commit to the job but can also come across as desperation.

Find the line between arrogance and desperation. Sound confident but willing to learn. Avoid overly formal, flowery or robotic language and show concisely how your skills and achievements value the company.

Back It Up With a Strong Portfolio

Recruiters, especially those in the tech space, want to see a strong portfolio. Your work speaks louder than your words, and your cover letter should lead them into a portfolio that shows you know how to complete the tasks they need finished.

For example, as an engineering candidate, you may not have the most solid writing skills. To overcome that, create a visual portfolio that allows the recruiter to see your past work. In this way, your qualifications come across visually rather than in the written word.

Show What Your Future Holds

Turnover is expensive and frustrating for most companies. When they hire, they want a long-term candidate who will be an asset to the company for years. Highlight what you plan to do to improve your skills. Do you have classes lined up? Do you plan to continue your education? Are you attending industry conferences?

Adding these to your cover letter and resume shows that you are looking for more than a job. It shows that you want a career with the company, and they won’t have to spend the money to replace you if you don’t grow and adapt.

Finish Strong

You may just use a couple words to wrap up your cover letter, but they should be strong. Summarize the letter and your sentiments and add a call to action. Encourage the recruiter to study your resume and reach out for an interview. Use numbers here if possible.

Finally, Add a Postscript

A P.S. can be interesting, even if the recruiter only scans through the rest of your document. A postscript usually catches the eye because it’s set apart and includes interesting information. Only use a postscript if you can provide a valuable skill that you couldn’t mention in your cover letter. Don’t summarize anything you’ve already said.

A cover letter is the front page of your resume and the beginning of your story. Make it interesting, concise and full of valuable information to get the opportunity to interview.

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