Some of the most commonly asked career advice questions are about writing cover letters. People wonder if they still need to send one at all and what they should include in it.
First off: yes, you should submit a cover letter along with your resume when you apply for a job. It’s true that many employers don’t bother to read cover letters anymore, but others still do.
You don’t want to come across as the candidate who put less effort into their application or who was looking to cut corners. That creates a poor first impression. You can also create a poor first impression by having these 10 phrases in your cover letter or by having red flags which will essentially put you out of the running from the get-go.
For example. Let me write out the complete text of the worst cover letter I ever received. It was three words long. I was hiring a writer for a well-known website that I managed. The job posting included my email address so that applicants could contact me directly. My email address contained my name, so they would even know who they were writing to.
The worst cover letter was an email with the subject line “Writer job” and the entire text of the body read: “Please see attached.” The applicant’s resume was attached. That guy sank his chances of getting hired with just three words.
The application simply came across as lazy. Quick fix.
He could have at least typed:
Dear Mr. Harris,
I saw that you are hiring a content writer to join your team at Company.com. I am a big fan of the brand and an avid reader of the website. I would like to submit my candidacy for the position. Please see the attached resume for details of my credentials and experience, and let me know if you would like to set up a time to discuss how I could contribute to your team.
Thank you very much,
That would be a strict minimum. That much is at least polite. I would read that resume.
However, it would be better to write a little more. Employers want to hire people who put more care and attention into their applications, who go the extra mile, and who are the most passionate about landing the job.
You can express all of that in your cover letter.
Full fix. Take the time to write a few paragraphs. Three is an optimal number.
Paragraph #1: Tell the employer how you heard about the opportunity and why you are interested in the job.
Paragraph #2: Highlight your key credentials or experience, pointing out how they apply specifically to the job at hand.
Paragraph #3: The first two paragraphs demonstrated that you are passionate about the job and why you’d be great at it. The third one can reiterate your enthusiasm and say that you would love the opportunity to discuss the position more in person.
Politely thank the employer for taking the time to read your application and consider you and sign off.
So. The worst cover letter I ever received (“Please see attached”) becomes this:
Dear Mr. Harris,
I saw that you are hiring a content writer to join your team at Company.com. I am a big fan of the brand and an avid reader of the website. I would like to submit my candidacy for the position.
I have written and published numerous articles, videos, and other media on similar subject matter over the past five years. I am frequently called upon by other media to comment on issues as my writing has established me as a subject matter expert. I can provide a diverse portfolio of published work on topics that are relevant to the Company.com audience for you to read through.
I am very excited about the potential of joining the team. Please take a look at the attached resume for more details about my career so far, my credentials, and experience, and let me know if you would like to set up a time to discuss how I could contribute to your publication.
Thank you very much for considering me.
I hope my experience with the worst cover letter and how to make it better is helpful. In addition, here is an easy-to-use formula for writing a longer cover letter.