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What Should Be Included in a Cover Letter: The Most Important Aspects

What Should Be Included in a Cover Letter: The Most Important Aspects

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Your cover letter can either cause your reader to yawn or it can give the hiring manager a glimpse into why you are the perfect candidate.

Cover letter information isn’t just a repetition of your resume. It should expand on the details of your resume and highlight your greatest achievements and outline your career journey.  

So, what should be included in a cover letter? Read on to find out. 

What Should Be Included in a Cover Letter?

Though there is no required format for this, there are three main elements all good cover letters share.

The first is a memorable introduction.

Hiring managers might have to go through hundreds of applications. Reading the same dry opening again can get your cover letter put in the no pile. A memorable introduction is the best way to keep them engaged so they keep reading. 

Secondly, the body of your cover letter should include specific, organized examples of your skills, abilities, and past successes. More on that below.

Last, of all, your conclusion should be concise and have a clear call to action.

Remember, you don’t have to fit your entire career onto a single page. This is your chance to provide specific stories that will give the reader a clear idea of your fit for their company. 

Consider Voice and Tone

When you are writing your cover letter, be sure that you’ve researched the company you’re applying to.

The tone of your cover letter might be more formal or relaxed depending on the company. A tech startup cover letter, for example, could benefit from being more casual than one for a large consulting firm.

Use the Hiring Manager’s Name

Want to stand apart from the other applicants? Go to the effort of finding out the hiring manager’s name and address your cover letter to that person.

This small detail shows your reader that you are research-oriented and pay attention to detail. 

You might have to look on job boards, company, or recruiting agency websites to find this information. Or you may need to call and ask the front desk for that info.

It’s worth the effort so that you can be one of the few candidates that don’t address their  cover letter with “To whom it may concern,” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”

Choose Requirements that Match Your Experience

When you’re wondering what should be included in a cover letter, remember that the body of your letter is the most important part. 

When a company creates a job posting, they include a bunch of skills that their perfect candidate would have. Don’t be intimidated by what can be a long list of requirements.

Before you start writing your cover letter, make a list of all the qualifications the job posting lists.

Then, make a second list of all your skills. Cross-reference these to find at least three items from the first list that match your skillset. 

It doesn’t matter if you’ve switched careers. Here, you just want to focus on the skills you’ve mastered.

In the body of your cover letter, write a little blurb about how you possess each of those skills. Focus on real examples that show that you meet the company’s needs. 

Custom Make Each Cover Letter You Send

Your cover letter to one organization should never look exactly like the one you write.

Yes, it takes time to craft a well-written cover letter for each job you apply to. But if it gets you the job (or at least an interview) isn’t it worth the effort?

Your cover letter should be specifically tailored to the role and company you are applying for. Pair the company’s requirements with a specific experience or contribution you’ve had in your career. 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to outline each one of your skills or accomplishments. If you say two or three things right, you’re that much closer to landing the job. 

Include Relevant Keywords

The way a job posting is worded matters a great deal. Someone at the company has spent a lot of time creating a job posting that precisely outlines their needs.

One of the best tips for what to put on a letter when applying for a job is a sprinkling of the same keywords they use.

This is the biggest factor that can help you get chosen for a job interview. Hiring managers or HR personnel sometimes don’t even read all the cover letters they receive. In fact, they spend an average of 5-7 seconds looking at your application.

Plus, as the hiring process becomes increasingly automated, it is vital that you include the right keywords so that tracking systems will put your application in the “yes” pile for a human to review. 

Use Power Stories

We’ve all heard the phrase: “show don’t tell.” But when you have to sell yourself in the space of a page, it is even harder to prove your value.

That’s why it is crucial that you use powerful stories to make your cover letter impressive, memorable and unique.

Avoid saying, “I’m a good problem solver.” Anyone can say that. Why should a hiring manager take your word on that?

Instead, tell compelling stories from your career that highlight your proficiency and skills that are relevant to this position. 

Tell Them Why You’re Applying 

Hiring managers don’t want to waste time and resources on candidates who aren’t really interested in the job.

Though the cover letter is mostly about you, it’s wise to make it a little bit about them as well.

Share what caught your eye about the posting or why you’re interested in this company. This is a great way to show that you’ve done your research about the company and aren’t sending generic cover letters to anyone who is hiring.

Bottom Line

There you have it! Now you know exactly what should be included in a cover letter.

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