When it comes to the job application process, there's no question that a well-written résumé with the right qualifications will attract a hiring manager's attention. With so much focus on the résumé, some candidates forget that their cover letter can be just as instrumental in landing a job interview.
"Some job seekers think cover letters are a thing of the past, but in our recent survey, 91 percent of executives said cover letters are still important as they consider candidates for a job," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of staffing firm The Creative Group. "When reading a cover letter, hiring managers want to get a sense of an applicant's career aspirations and how they can contribute to the company's growth and success."
If you want to make your cover letter stand out from the crowd, follow these six tips from hiring experts. [4 Simple Reasons You're Not Getting Hired]
Make it customized
Just like your résumé, cover letters should be tailored to each position and company you apply for. Instead of a template-style cover letter, use industry-specific language that references points from the job description and company website, if applicable. Take the time to find out the proper contact to address it to, so you can avoid a generic salutation, such as "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam."
Christa Shapiro, regional vice president of Adecco Staffing, said one thing that always draws attention to a cover letter is mentioning why you want to be a part of that particular company.
"It shows that you don't just want a job; you want to work for this company," Shapiro said.
If you were introduced or connected to a hiring manager by a specific employee at the company or mutual industry contact, be sure to include that person's name in your cover letter if you're able to.
"Candidates can include referrals in a cover letter to make them stand out," said Bill Peppler, managing partner at staffing firm Kavaliro. "They should always gain permission for this before they name drop, but the cover letter gives great opportunity to include a name of someone that can vouch for your skills."
Address potential résumé concerns
A well-crafted cover letter can do more than explain why you're the right person for the job. It can also give you the chance to explain items on your résumé that might otherwise be considered red flags.
"Address any issues that may give a hiring manager pause, such as gaps in employment," Domeyer said.
Don't repeat your résumé
While your cover letter should reference material from your résumé, it shouldn't simply be a word-for-word repeat, said Jane Trnka, executive director of the Career Development Center at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business. Use the cover letter to expand where necessary and discuss your listed experiences from a different angle.
"Craft the letter to acknowledge the requirements of the role and culture of the organization, while highlighting the skills and experiences that align with the job description," Trnka told Business News Daily.
Proofread and fact-check
As with any other job application materials, it's imperative to check and double-check your cover letter for any grammatical or factual errors. Even the simplest of oversights can make a bad impression on the person reading your letter.
"If there are errors of any kind, it's a huge red flag," said Guryan Tighe, chief culture officer of Highwire PR. "This is your one opportunity to impress [the hiring manager] and show who you are. If there are typos, misspellings or formatting issues, it's generally an automatic out."
Keep it brief
Hiring managers are busy and often have hundreds of applications to sift through. Keeping your cover letter concise and to the point will improve your chances of having it read. Our sources agreed that a few paragraphs highlighting the most relevant information and work experience is the best approach to cover- letter writing.