4 tips for writing the perfect cover letter

If you're a job seeker, writing cover letters can seem quite daunting. After all, a well-crafted cover letter is often what separates you from other qualified applicants. To ensure your cover letter doesn't languish in the "maybe" pile, here are four expert tips to crafting the perfect cover letter.

1. Don't write a generic cover letter

Although it may seem obvious, submitting generic cover letters to every potential employer is the most common mistake job seekers make. 

Employers dread receiving those cover letters that look like they are "written for the masses". To ensure your resume and cover letter instantly grab your employer's attention, customise it to the position you are applying for and the expertise the company is seeking.


2. Address your cover letter to a direct contact

This is the best way to ensure your cover letter is read. Instead of emailing your cover letter and resume to the company, find out who the hiring manager is and email them directly. 

The same principle applies to addressing your cover letter; address it to the hiring manager, recruitment officer or HR person, if possible. This is vital, as it enables you to tailor your letter to the company and the individual. 

3. Write a killer lead

To ensure you leave a lasting impression, ensure you nail the lead paragraph of your cover letter. Draw your employer in by sharing what impresses you about the organisation and why. Basically, use your lead paragraph to explain why you specifically want to work for that organisation. 


4. Explain what you will contribute to the organisation

After hooking your employer in with the lead, use the next few paragraphs to outline exactly what you can do for the company. While this may sound difficult, it doesn't have to be a guessing game. If you're unsure what to say, look at the job description for some solid hints. 

Use job description items as headings to make three or four bullet points. Under each one, explain the outcomes you can produce to solve your employer's problems. 

If you'd like more information on writing a winning cover letter, or to give your resume a much-needed refresh, simply call or email the experts at Loft Resumes.
  • Author Nicole C
  • Category Cover Letters
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How should you address your cover letter?

Formal cover letters can seem a bit old-fashioned in the age of email, but when it comes to job applications they are timeless. It’s still important to include a bespoke cover letter for every job application and a sure fire way to impress is to include a personalised and formal salutation. Here are a few tips to help you get your cover letter salutation right. 

Be specific

Include the full name and job title of the hiring manager. Using a generic salutation immediately tells the hiring manager that you haven’t taken the time to research the company. Your cover letter is usually your first chance to make a good impression on your prospective employer so it’s important to start off on the right foot by including their name. This also speaks directly to them, helping to grab their attention, and goes some way to show you've taken the time to tailor your cover letter for the job and company. 


Do your research

Don’t despair if the position description doesn’t include the name of the hiring manager. A little internet sleuthing should help you figure out who you need to address your cover letter to. Search the company website or on LinkedIn for the head of the department the position you are applying for falls under. 

Another option is to call the company directly and ask. This method can put you in a good light as a serious candidate but make sure the information isn’t easily searchable online before you call or you will run the risk of appearing lazy. 

Use formal salutations

The casualness of email can make it tempting to slip into using conversational language and greetings, but formal salutations are still the best option for cover letters. The correct format is to include the hiring manager's first and last name and include the title “Mr.” or “Ms.”

Try searching on LinkedIn if the hiring manager has a non-gender specific name as most LinkedIn profiles include a profile picture. Alternatively, skip the title and use both first and last name e.g. “Dear Sam Jones.” 

Also, don't forget that if you use the addressee's name, it is considered best practice to sign off “Yours sincerely”. “Yours faithfully” is reserved for instances when you don't know the recipient's name.

Hiring managers see a lot of cover letters every single day, so it’s important to stand out for the right reasons. Loft Resumes can help get you noticed with our editable cover letter designs with every resume purchase, or you can buy our cover letter writing services but the research you do to get the salutation right is what could make or break your application.
  • Author Nicole C
  • Category Cover Letters
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You, The Brand


You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: there is only one you. Now, don’t quote us on this, but we’re pretty sure that makes you about as valuable as the Mona Lisa (there’s only one of her, too.) No one else can offer the unique combination of skills and personality traits you can bring to the table. That one-of-a-kind combo is what constitutes your personal brand. 

When you’re building your career, a good way to get noticed is to think of yourself as a brand.  A personal brand is simply what you want people to think about you. Every piece of communication you put out there for potential employers to see should tell that story—your website, your (public) social media profiles, and of course, your cover letter and resume. It’s no different than any other kind of advertising, except in this case, you’re the product. So how do you start creating your brand story?

Know yourself: Your first step is to figure out exactly what you offer. You should be able to state it succinctly, meaning in a single sentence or less. It’s not enough to just be a photographer or a wedding planner or an accountant. You have to isolate the unique combination of skills and personality traits that sets you apart from all of the other photographers/wedding planners/accountants. Then you have to tell people about it.

Find your strengths:  Start by talking to your friends, colleagues, professors, group members, and anyone else who has worked closely with you and knows you well. They’ll see your strengths in a completely different light than you do, and talking to them will probably help you uncover some positive attributes you never knew you had. You might also consider taking a personality inventory like the Myers Briggs test. It’s not a crystal ball, but it can reveal things about your personality and leadership style that can help you formulate your personal brand. You can also make a mood board as an exercise to focus your personal brand concept.

Know your audience: To make your brand work its hardest for you, you have to know who you’re talking to. Think carefully about the kind of person or company you want to work for, and tailor your personal brand to appeal to them. What do they need in an employee? What unique niche can you fill? Answer these questions, and then build your brand accordingly.

For more in-depth personal brand-building tips, check out this article

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceCover LettersResume Advice
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Don't Let Your Cover Letter Blend In

What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can't reread a phone call.”
Photo by cinnamon girl

Agency Spy posted a pretty dead-on universal cover letter that made us laugh because it’s A) funny and B) instructive. Let’s go through it and see what we can learn, shall we? 

Zany greeting no one uses in real life!

Even if you’re applying for a job in a creative field, don’t get too wacky in your cover letter. Your personality should show, but remember that you’re making a first impression, and you should come across as a professional.

Introduction to myself in case you can’t read who this email is coming from. Brief background about myself because the only way I “know” you is by 5 degrees of LinkedIn separation.

You do have to introduce yourself, of course, but try to let your personality shine through. Remember, hiring managers read an awful lot of these things, so you want to make it interesting. Think about your audience and what they want to know about your background, and tailor your introduction accordingly.

Sentence full of innuendo that boils down to me being unemployed. Predictable comment about how your agency and me belong together, ignorant to the fact you are probably friends with several other recruiters I’m sending this exact letter to. Generic compliment that applies to every agency but, for the purposes of this email, “specifically” yours.

We all know we should be writing a new cover letter for every job we apply for, but does anyone actually do that? If you ask us, a lot more people should. Writing your cover letter specifically for the job you want allows you to make a case for why you’re the best candidate for that position. This is a great opportunity to sell yourself; don’t waste it.

Let’s talk about me some more, because I’ve forgotten all of the following information is on my resume, which I made in Microsoft Word even though I call myself creative.

By all means, be sure your resume stands out in a sea of boring Word docs—especially if you’re going into a creative field. We can help.

I’ll make a list here in paragraph form, beginning with the college I went to that taught me nothing applicable to this position. This would be the perfect place for an unfunny joke about how good the football/basketball team is going to be this year! Giant stretch here talking about my experience, because this position I’m emailing about requires 3 more years of experience than I really have.

Don’t waste space in your cover letter by restating your resume. Instead, use this opportunity to explain what those experiences have taught you and why they make you the best candidate for the position. Also, don’t overstate your qualifications. Just use your actual experiences—professional and otherwise—to make a convincing case.

Here is where I mention the name of someone you actually may know in real life, who gave me his business card once in college. I hope the name drop makes you more likely to respond to me, but what I don’t know is that guy I just mentioned got let go 8 months ago. Plus, he was kind of a [jerk]. It is now clear just how desperate I am.

Don’t be desperate. If you do happen to have a connection, you can bring it up in the letter or include that person as a reference, but make sure it’s a good, solid connection and not just some guy you met once. It’s also a good idea to get in touch with anyone you plan to name-drop to make sure that person is OK with it. You don’t want them to be blindsided if they get called for a reference, especially if they have no idea who you are.

A one word, drinking based farewell that implies I’m a fun person, and a wish that I hear from you soon.

“Sincerely” will do just fine. Remember that this is still a professional letter; don’t get too casual.

A warning/threat that I will follow up with another template email in a week if I don’t hear back from you.

It’s fine to touch base, but bugging them can be off-putting. Follow up with care.

I hope at this point that you haven’t realized I’ve spent 30 minutes writing this, but not 30 seconds proofreading it.

Please proofread your letter. Do you really want a misspelled word to be the reason your resume goes into the reject pile?

-First name

And last name. Again, professional. Plus, it can’t hurt for them to read it a couple of times so they remember it.

What’s the takeaway here? Hiring managers see roughly a million cover letters a day (probably not, but we’re sure it feels that way.) Avoid falling into these traps to make yours stand out.

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceCover LettersFirst ImpressionResume Advice
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Giving Your Stalled Job Search a Jumpstart.

Photo by steguis

So, you've been job-hunting for a while, and you've hit a dry spell. Your interview suit is gathering dust, your diet consists mainly of Froot Loops, and you're way too invested in daytime television. Your search needs to see some action, and soon. Here are a few tips to give it the boost it needs. 

Rethink your cover letter.

Be honest. Are you sending the same cover letter to every company? We know, it's much easier to copy and paste, but if you bait your hook well, you might get more bites. For every job you apply for—or at least the ones you really want—write an individualized cover letter telling them why you're the perfect candidate for their business. People know a form letter when they see one, so give them a personalized letter that stands out.

Use your network.

If you've just been trawling online job postings, you aren't taking full advantage of what's really out there. Most people get jobs through people they know. So go through your Facebook profile, flip through your church directory, ask your friends. Don't feel badly about requesting help from people you're only slightly acquainted with, either. The worst they can do is say no. Also, get yourself to as many networking events as you can. You never know who you might meet.

Ask for an informational interview.

Just because a company isn't ready to hire now doesn't mean they won't be ready to hire in the future. Ask for an informational interview to introduce yourself and learn more about the field you're interested in. Even if it doesn't result in a job, you'll get valuable interviewing practice and potentially make connections that could get you hired in the future.

Build your skillset.

Are you seeing skills that you don't have requested in job listings? While you're looking, take the opportunity to build those up. If the jobs you want request social media expertise, for instance, get a Twitter and a LinkedIn profile and read up on innovative ways to use them. If employers want someone with event planning experience, volunteer with an organization that will help you bulk up your resume. Read. Research. Give yourself the knowledge to shine more with every interview.

Broaden your search.

We're not in the business of crushing dreams here, but setting your job search parameters too narrowly can hold you back. If you refuse to consider any opportunity that isn't a Fortune 500 company in Manhattan, for instance, it goes without saying that you're limiting your options. We're not suggesting you lower your standards, but it can't hurt to expand your idea of what kind of offer you'd be willing to take, whether that means a lower salary, a smaller city, a less well-known company or a different position.

Don't give up.

It's tough out there. On average, it takes seven months or more to find a job in today's economy. Ugh. It's easy to start to feel hopeless, but chin up. The right job will come along, especially if you take the right steps to find it.

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceCover LettersJob LeadsSocial Media
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Lessons from a Colorful Job-Seeking Email

So, this email from a job seeker has been making the rounds on the internet lately. (see the article here)

First of all, we’re not 100 percent sure this is real, but it is hilarious. Poor Matthew. So unfortunate. Let’s take a moment to see what his misstep can teach us.

Lesson 1: Like fire or a samurai sword, email is deadly when misused. 

One thing about email that is both awesome and terrible is its instantaneous nature. It allows you to fire off a reply so quickly, you don’t take the time to carefully think about your response. If Matthew had taken the time to mull over Carl’s question, he might not have made his response quite so—magically delicious. No matter how eager you are to get the job, it’s better to write your reply, then take a little while to think it over and make sure you’ve got it right. A thoughtful response goes much further than a fast one.

Lesson 2: Be careful with your fonts.

Any design nerd (and we use the term affectionately, since we qualify) will tell you that Comic Sans is a no-no in a professional email. We think it’s a no-no in general, but we’re not going to judge you as harshly if you use it in a “please make more coffee if you drink it all” letter in the break room as we would if you use it in a professional context. Cutesy fonts just make you look goofy. Stick to something more serious, like Helvetica or Arial or even Times New Roman. Your potential employer may not care, but better safe than sorry.

Lesson 3: Proofread.

Then proofread again, and once you’re done, proofread one more time. Aside from looking like a bag of Skittles, this email is a grammatical mess. No matter how excited and eager you are to get your response back to a potential employer, it’s worth the extra time it takes to make sure you send a clean and correct reply. Even though email is a fast and informal means of communication, grammar is still important. Matthew says right there in his email that he pays attention to detail (you can’t miss it; it’s bright orange), but his sloppy grammar doesn’t do much to help his case. It matters.

Lesson 4: Asking a question is not unprofessional.

Clearly, Matthew didn’t understand what Carl was asking. And you know what? That’s OK. It’s fine that you don’t know everything. If you have access to a more established mentor, forward the email and see how they interpret it, or reply to the original sender and ask if they can explain their question more clearly. Sure, it might make you feel dumb and inexperienced, but you know what makes you actually look dumb and inexperienced? SENDING A FLIPPING RAINBOW EMAIL.

One thing that works in Matthew’s favor is that he’s clearly eager about his job search, and that’s a good thing. So thanks for being a cautionary tale, Matthew. Best of luck in your search!

  • Author Emory Cash
  • Category Career AdviceCover LettersLife LessonRainbow
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