It’s a good time to be a job seeker: U.S. job growth is strong, unemployment is on a steady decline, and openings are at an all-time high.
That doesn’t make the search any less daunting. Differentiating yourself from every other job seeker on the market is no small feat, and the monotony of filling out online applications can make the task downright exhausting. That’s where a killer cover letter comes in.
Done right, a great cover letter is like a secret weapon for catching a hiring manager’s attention. Next to your resume, it’s one of the most important, underutilized tools at your disposal.
Here are some cover letter writing tips, and a free, downloadable template, to make yours stand out.
Every cover letter you write should be tailored to the job you’re applying for — just like your resume. Study the job posting carefully, and make a quick list of any essential qualifications.
“Job seekers really struggle with what to say on a cover letter,” says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, President and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. “Taking a second to think about why you’re applying, and why you’re a good fit for the company, makes the process a lot easier.”
If you’re adding a cover letter to an online application, use a business letter format with a header and contact information. If you’re sending an email, it’s OK to leave out the header, but be sure to provide a phone number (and an attached resume, of course). Make sure you’re clear about the position you’re applying for.
Avoid nameless salutations — it might take a little Google research, and some LinkedIn outreach, but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score you major brownie points. “Do not start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’” Holbrook Hernandez says. “It concerns no one.”
2. Tell a Story
To grab a recruiter’s attention, a good narrative—with a killer opening line—is everything.
“The cover letter is a story,” says Satjot Sawhney, a resume and career strategist with Loft Resumes. “What is the most interesting thing you’re doing that’s relevant to this job?” Use that to guide your letter.
Ideally, the story that drives your resume will focus on a need at the company you’re applying for. If you’re a PR professional, maybe you have a list of clients in an industry the team wants to break into. If you’re in marketing, a successful promotional campaign might be the ticket in. “A hiring manager wants to see results-driven accomplishments with a past employer,” says Holbrook Hernandez. “If you’ve done it before, you can deliver it again.”
If you have a career gap or are switching industries, address it upfront. “If there’s anything unique in your career history, call that out in the beginning,” says professional resume writer Brooke Shipbaugh.
(Here’s a downloadable sample.)
3. Use Bullet Points to Show Impact
Hiring managers are usually slammed with applications, so short, quick cover letters are preferable to bloated ones, says Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of human resources at job site Indeed.
“Make your cover letter a brief, bright reference tool,” he says. “The easier you can make it on the recruiter the better.”
Bullet points are a good tool for pulling out numbers-driven results. Job seekers in creative fields like art and design can use bullets to break down their most successful project. Those in more traditional roles (like the one in the template), can hammer off two or three of their most impressive accomplishments.
4. Highlight Culture Fit
It’s often overlooked, but a major function of the cover letter is to show a company how well you’d mesh with the culture.
As you research a potential employer, look for culture cues on the company website, social media, and review sites like Glassdoor. Oftentimes, employers will nod to culture in a job posting. If the ad mentions a “team environment,” it might be good to play up a recent, successful collaboration. If the company wants a “self-starter,” consider including an achievement that proves you don’t need to be micromanaged.
The tone of your letter can also play to culture. “The cover letter is a great place to show [an employer] how you fit into their world,” Shipbaugh says. “Show some personality.”
5. End with an Ask
The goal of a cover letter is to convince the person reading it to make the next move in the hiring process — with a phone call, interview, or otherwise. Ending on a question opens that door without groveling for it.
“You have to approach this with a non-beggar mentality,” Sawhney says. “Having an ‘ask’ levels the playing field.”
Related: What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2018
The cover letter template pack on this page is for a graphic designer with over six years of experience. The applicant is seeking a position in a marketing agency. The cover letter below has been written based on real graphic design resume samples hosted on our website.
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SEE ALSO > How to Write an Professional Resume
Graphic Design Cover Letter
The cover letters below are based on the graphic designer resume example on the left. Click on the image to get tips on how to write a resume that supports your cover letter.
The applicant below starts off their cover letter by asserting that they can begin contributing to the company right off the bat. They go on to lay out their expertise in relevant skills like CSS, Adobe Creative Suite, and HTML. Additionally, the candidate lists four of their most impressive achievements.
Download the template pack below and choose your favorite style — Park, Elegant, or Classic. Use the samples to help you format your own cover letter.
Click Here to Download Our
Graphic Designer CL Template Pack
[341 Company Address
Company City, State, xxxxx
Dear Mr. /Mrs. /Ms. (Manager’s Name),
I am writing this letter to express my interest in the graphic designer opening as advertised on [Website’s Name].
From day one, I believe that I can begin making valuable contributions to the design team at [Company Name]. I possess a wide range of abilities that combine innovative art and design principles. Furthermore, my expert knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, HTML, and CSS will allow me to play a crucial role in the implementation of your design initiatives.
The following are highlights of my skills and accomplishments:
- Lead a team of five designers to develop and implement the graphic, layout, and production communication materials while helping clients cut their costs by an average of 12%.
- Oversaw the efficient use of production project budgets ranging from $2,000 – $25,000
- Developed numerous marketing programs (logos, brochures, newsletters, infographics, presentations, and advertisements) that have improved client transactions by an average of 45%
- Time Management Skills: Manage up to 5 projects or tasks at a given time while under pressure to meet strict weekly deadlines
Enclosed is my resume for your review. I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you personally how my skills and strengths can best serve your company. I appreciate your time and consideration.
SEE ALSO > Creative, Graphic Design Resume Template Packs
Didn’t find the answer you were looking for? For information on how to write your cover letter from scratch check out this guide that walks you through the steps here.