While many jobseekers today question the need for a cover letter, they are still very relevant. Research shows 53% of employers prefer candidates with a cover letter, and 47% of recruiters feel that it shows motivation. In addition, a cover letter will give you an important advantage over your competition because 45% don’t bother with them.
At the same time, however, 74% of hiring professionals said they did not actually read the cover letters. So, while it’s important to include one, you should not spend hours writing them. To help simplify and speed up the writing process, below are critical questions to answer in a cover letter and a quick list of things to avoid.
1. Who Are You?
Start with a brief introduction that frames your experience in terms of the position. Include the specific requirements listed in the job ad, such as years of experience, education, or specific skill sets. Including those here shows the reader immediately that you are qualified for the position.
- With over 15 years of financial sales, customer loyalty, and market research experience, I am a self-motivated customer service professional.
- I am a dedicated licensed registered nurse with 5 years of experience, recognized for my willingness to go the extra mile to improve patient health.
- Drawing on my diverse skill set and technical expertise as an administrative assistant, I am poised to make an immediate impact at your organization.
- I have more than 10 years of experience maintaining and administering geographically distributed networks and network equipment and devices.
Also, make sure to include the same contact information that you list on your resume in the letter header. It can also help to copy the same format and header style as well, so it is easy to keep your documents associated with each other.
2. Why Are You Writing?
Round out the introductory paragraph with information to specifically identify the job sought.
Also, make sure to include any job search reference numbers and specific corporate titles. Corporations can be hiring for the same position but at different organizational levels, for example, Public Affairs Officer I and Public Affairs Officer II. When an organization is hiring for multiple positions, these are important questions to answer on your cover letters.
- In my search for a challenging business development position with a dynamic organization, I was interested to find the ad for (Position Title) with (Company Name).
- As an experienced registered nurse, I am confident that I meet the requirements for (Position Title) with (Company Name).
3. What Is Your Response to Any Resume Red Flags?
Hiring managers hate unanswered questions. And one of the most important questions to answer in a cover letter is why your resume is different from the others. A wide variety of situations can raise questions about a resume. These include large employment gaps, incomplete or in-progress education, work visa status, living out of the area, and so on. Answering these questions up front can help quickly remove any resume red flags.
- After spending two years as a primary caregiver, I am eager to reenter the workforce and continue my career.
- I am currently in the U.S. on an H1B work visa and will need support from my new employer to maintain my status.
- Although I currently live (in a different state), I feel confident that I can contribute remotely and am prepared to travel to the company location on a monthly basis for meetings.
4. Why This Company And/Or Why This Job?
Recruiters are looking for you to explain your interest in this job and/or this company. Make their job easy and, as one of the questions to answer in a cover letter, explain what attracted you to the company and why you want this specific job. Needing a job isn’t a strong enough reason. You may need to do some research.
Maybe you like the work culture or the organization’s reputation in the community. Is it the perfect fit for your experience and background? If so, explain that. If this job is your dream job, share the reasons why. Companies want to hire someone who will be passionate about the job and who wants to succeed in what they’re doing.
- I’ve used your services for years and feel I understand what your customers expect in terms of quality and service.
- I prefer to work with people in this kind of setting (be specific here with the industry, department, etc). I know I can hit the ground running.
- I have 3 years of experience in the industry. I am eager to learn your processes and continue to do what I love most.
5. How Can I Solve Your Problem?
Companies hire a worker to solve a problem within the organization. The reasons vary from growing capacity to needing experienced managers to adding specialized skill sets. Connect the dots between your work history and the needs of the current opening, clearly explaining how your background fits the role.
Read between the lines of the job ad and look for pain points the company may be experiencing, and explain why you’re the answer to the problem. Don’t just state that you have the experience, back it up with examples that they can find on your resume.
- My demonstrated expertise managing a variety of digital projects includes planning and implementing telemarketing solutions to conducting global market research projects.
- Credited with relying on evidence-based insights into customer requirements, I lead the creation of business intelligence strategies that accurately target and achieve revenue goals.
- I am recognized for my ability to collaborate and liaise with all project stakeholders, including multiple project teams, executive management, sub-contractors, and regulatory agencies.
6. What Are the Next Steps?
End your cover letter like any good marketing document, with a call to action. The last of the important questions to answer in a cover letter is what you would like the reader to do next. Summarize the main points of the letter that support why you are the best candidate, and let them know you are waiting for them to contact you for an interview.
- In me, you will find a talented and dedicated healthcare professional with the necessary technical savvy and communication skills to work well in remote situations. I look forward to speaking with you to discuss how my experience and abilities will be an asset to your organization.
- As a member of your team, I will be a talented and dedicated IT leader with a passion for coaching and empowering team members. I look forward to speaking with you to discuss how my experience and skills will be an asset to your organization. Thank you for your consideration.
Things to Avoid on Your Cover Letter
When deciding the questions to answer in a cover letter, make sure that you avoid the following mistakes:
- Grammatical and typographical errors. Misspellings and bad grammar will get your letter tossed.
- Go over one page in length. It won’t get read.
- Using the language as your resume. Don’t regurgitate the same content, mix it up a bit.
- No focus on results. Explain the positive outcomes you achieved.
- A generic greeting. Try and come up with a real name to address your letter.
- Don’t be overly personal. Showcase your personality but don’t get too personal.
Get ahead of the competition and include a well-written cover letter with your job applications. The six questions to answer in a cover letter above provide you with a quick and easy way to pull together important information. Using those answers and avoiding the errors outlined above will provide you with a letter that demonstrates you are motivated, qualified, and can make a positive contribution to their business.
Do you submit a cover letter alongside your resume? How did it affect your application response rate? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!
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