Cover Letter Tips and Best Practices

woman on computer, writing a cover letter

What’s it take to write a bang-up cover letter? One that’s well crafted, on point, and captures the attention of your potential employer in the best possible way? If you’re trying to figure out how to write a cover letter and facing a blank page, know that there’s an art to the exercise of writing a great cover letter.

However, like most aspects of job hunting, understanding how to write a cover letter can be learned, and you can only get better with time and experience. As you grow increasingly comfortable with selling yourself and explaining why you’re the best candidate for the job (the reason cover letters exist, of course!), you may come to appreciate how to take advantage of cover letter tips to write a letter that makes you shine.

Here’s what you need to know about how to write a cover letter:

Do: Strategies to Consider

Start Off Strong

Kick off your cover letter with a bang. Some options include making a statement about your enthusiasm for the company, your passion about what you do and your accomplishments, or using keywords in your cover letter to catch the hiring manager’s attention.

More: How to Write a Cover Letter Introduction (Examples)

Explain Why You’re “the One”

Making the case for why you’re the best candidate for the job can help you preemptively answer the question of why you want to work for a particular company by showcasing your knowledge and qualifications.

Research the Company and Study Its Culture

Finding an employer that’s a good fit for your flexible career goals is an essential first step in your job search.

Seek to know a company’s culture and understand its mission, as well as how the company works to achieve it. Study the company’s website, research outside sources, and reference your knowledge about the company in your cover letter.

Don’t: Mistakes to Avoid

A Cookie-Cutter Approach

A job search isn’t “one size fits all.” To that end, take particular care to ensure that you customize your cover letter not just to the company but to the particular job at hand. Each cover letter you write should be unique to the job you’re applying for.

Being Long-Winded

Keep your cover letter tightly worded and avoid straying off course by being wordy or bringing up off-topic information. As much as possible, avoid repeating the information on your resume, but keep your language personal in a succinct way.

Inappropriate Humor

Exhibiting humor that’s in poor taste is bad form in pretty much any situation, but it can be particularly harmful in a cover letter. While you don’t want to be overly serious or heavy, avoid going to the opposite extreme by being too light or frivolous.

Loaded Words and Phrases

Self-promotion (which is what a cover letter involves) can be tricky, and it’s easy to step over the line. Certain words and phrases can be overkill, such as coming off as too picky or demanding.

The Basics of a Cover Letter That Shines

A major goal of writing a standout cover letter, of course, is to set yourself apart from other job candidates. As you compose a letter that helps you shine, don’t lose sight of a few basics. See What Should Your Cover Letter Contain? for a full checklist of essential items for your cover letter.

Make Sure You Address the Letter to the Correct Person

Be sure to use the correct title (Mr. or Ms. is usually appropriate) and name of the contact person. At all costs, avoid using “To Whom It May Concern” or other generic titles or honorifics, which could be a red flag that you haven’t done your research. There are better alternatives to “To Whom It May Concern,” but the best option is to research the hiring manager’s name.

Spell Out the Specific Position You’re Applying For

No matter how beautifully crafted your cover letter may be, it may all be for nothing if you fail to include basic information, like the title of the job you’re trying to land and, particularly, the kind of work flexibility you’re seeking.

Demonstrate Your Knowledge of the Employer

You can be brief, but a tightly crafted sentence or two that shows off what you know about the employer can make you stand out. Good places to research this information include the “About Us” page and mission statements on a company’s website. Researching companies on FlexJobs can help get you ahead.

Briefly Highlight Your Soft Skills

A cover letter is a great opportunity to highlight any soft skills you may have. Unlike hard skills, soft skills encompass interpersonal talents, like creativity, interpersonal relationships, communication, and decision-making.

A “Big Finish”

Make your final paragraph a “closer.” Summarize why you’re the right candidate for the job, and don’t forget to thank the hiring contact for their time and consideration. If a meeting or interview hasn’t been set up or offered, now’s a good time to request one as the next step in the hiring process.

Cover Letter Confidence

While writing a cover letter may be intimidating, it is an essential part of a job search. Using these tips will help you become a more confident job seeker.

Written by: Adrianne Bibby

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