Ask a Job Coach: How Do I Write a Great Cover Letter for a Remote Job?

In this quarterly installment of the Virtual Vocations “Ask a Job Coach” series, we talk with Virtual Vocations very own Holly Leyva, Division Manager of Customer and Career Services, about how to write a great cover letter to land a remote job.

Cover letters have lost their popularity over the past several years, as only around 60% of employers require one as part of the application process. While skipping this formality may save you time, don’t neglect the cover letter altogether. With the ability to showcase your personality, demonstrate your work experience and achievements, and discuss other aspects of your professional career, cover letters are a crucial part of any remote job application. In addition, 77% of employers will give preferential treatment to applicants that include a cover letter, even if it’s not required as part of the application process.

If you’re struggling to create a cohesive cover letter that provides some insight into your skills and personality, you aren’t alone. Both remote workers and other onsite workers struggle with cover letters on a routine basis. Using these tips from Leyva, you can give your cover letter a makeover — one that will wow recruiters and hiring managers — putting you one step closer to the wonderful world of remote employment.

Is it possible to use a general resume for several job postings and tailor the cover letter to the specifics for the position?

Both the cover letter and the resume should be written for the specific job you are applying for. Any resume submitted online will be parsed by an applicant tracking system (ATS) for keywords, phrases, job titles, and more. Therefore, you should tailor the resume to align with the specific job advertisement and position you are applying for.

The cover letter is also scanned by the computer, so this should be keyword optimized and provide the reader with additional information and value that may not be stated in the resume. Questions you may want to address in your cover letter include:

  • How do you align with this company, company value, or mission?
  • Why do you want to work with this company?
  • What unique value do you bring or problem can you solve for this company?

What are your recommendations for including a cover letter? Should you always include one?

Always follow the instructions on the application. If the employer requests a cover letter, provide a cover letter.  If the employer does not give a specific instruction, include a cover letter or create an e-note version of your cover letter.

While a cover letter isn’t always necessary, creating one can give you the upper hand over other applicants. By doing so, you can help your application stand out, especially in more competitive job roles.

Is the resume or the cover letter more important?

Both the cover letter and the resume are key parts of an application if the employer requests both. The resume is always going to be required and read by the ATS system and/or hiring professional. The cover letter can often be the document that makes a candidate stand out if there are several qualified candidates. Make sure your cover letter is well-written and speaks to the company and role.

How do employers view overlaps in jobs and/or short stints in particular positions?

There are several strategies to address career gaps in a resume and cover letter. The cover letter can often tell a bit more about the career gap than the resume. But this depends on the reason for the break and how you want to position that.

As a general rule, you can keep family-related gaps in employment to yourself unless asked. However, you should address non-family-related employment gaps in your cover letter. While you may not want to boast that you were fired, you can explain some instances with ideas such as:

  • Starting a business venture that wasn’t as successful as you may think
  • Living overseas for a few months
  • Volunteering
  • Artistic or creative endeavors

By addressing these gaps head on, you position yourself with openness and honesty that’s refreshing to the hiring manager. If you get to the interview stage, don’t be afraid about addressing these gaps in more detail.

Honing Your Cover Letter Skills Can Make All the Difference

Cover letters may seem like an antiquated notion in the digital work world. But writing a solid one can be the difference between an interview and landing on the “no pile.” By following Leyva’s tips, having a plan for your cover letter, and addressing your strengths and employment gaps, you can position yourself to be a true contender for the job of your choice.

And if you need any help crafting a solid cover letter, reach out to Virtual Vocations Career Services. With resume, job coaching, and cover letter services, Virtual Vocations can create a strong online profile that positions you for your next remote position.

Job Coach Bio

Holly Leyva of Virtual Vocations

Holly Leyva joined Virtual Vocations in 2011 after deciding to take a break from corporate life to focus on her family. She enjoys using the skills and experience gained from her previous role as a corporate trainer and hiring manager to coach jobseekers in their career search strategy so they can achieve success and satisfaction in their careers.

She has earned certifications in both resume writing (ACRW) and career coaching (CPCC), is an “Ask the Experts” contributor for the National Association of Resume Writers, and has been featured in several online publications. When she is not working, Holly enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, hiking, and learning something new every day.

Do you have questions to ask a job coach about writing a great cover letter for remote jobs or any other questions? Has any employer specifically praised your cover letter? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and questions. We’d love to hear from you!

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