How to Open and Close Your Cover Letter
After much searching, you finally found an advertised job which you’re sure you qualify for. You’ve gone through the job description and love it.
Your excitement is increasing as you see the possibility of being hired by the company.
Your resume isn’t a problem. You can easily edit the last one you sent so it reflects this particular job’s requirements.
But what about the cover letter?
Your cover letter is what will distinguish you from the competition. It is intended to highlight specific skills, knowledge, talent or experience which make you the best fit for the job.
A cover letter simply works to make you stand out from the crowd.
This however is on condition that you write it well.
A great cover letter should be attention-grabbing.
Recruiters and hiring managers have been shown to spend an average of 6 seconds on a candidate’s resume.
As such, you want to ensure that from the very beginning, your cover letter strikes a chord with the reader.
HOW TO START YOUR COVER LETTER
If your cover letter is to grab and sustain the attention from the beginning, then it means you have to start it well. This is not something that will happen by accident.
Lots of work will have to go into this. You have to invest time in finding out what exactly will be best to write and what not to write.
Here are some of the things you should consider when starting your cover letter.
You have just found a job you want to apply for. It is only natural that you are excited.
As much as you know that it’s not automatic for you to be hired, you should be enthusiastic about the job. This enthusiasm should be evident in your cover letter.
This is really basic though it can make a big difference.
No employer wants to hire someone who is bored and lacks a personal drive.
This only paints a picture of trouble as you may need reminders and pushing to do your work.
On the other hand, an enthusiastic employee can provide numerous benefits.
- Motivate himself – if you are enthusiastic about your job, you won’t need anyone telling you to work. It will be flowing from within you. The small challenges which are common at the workplace will also not bother you much.
- Motivate others – if you are motivated, chances are that you will also motivate those around you. Motivation easily rubs off on others. If you communicate this in your cover letter and later show it during the interview, you stand higher chances of getting hired.
- Provide creativity – although everyone is creative in their own ways, the most creative of people are self-motivated people. These are those who do not need anyone to give them a pep talk so as to take action.
If you are self-motivated, you will be coming up with solutions because for you, problems exist to be solved. Your attitude does not allow you to sit and wait for someone to do something.
You will take the initiative and generate ideas. This is a valued trait and it’s important to show it.
Mention a Contact
This depends on how you came to know about the job. In case you just knew it through the internet, you cannot use this tip.
But you can do this if you know someone working in the company.
You can contact them and ask about the position. Tell them you saw the job advertisement. As they encourage you to apply, then you get a contact to mention.
Having an insider can be very helpful as you can also get more information about the position.
Your contact person can get some of your questions answered to give you relevant insight into the job.
This will help firm up the contents of your cover letter. It will also come in handy during the interview.
But for the opening, you need to mention the name of your contact.
In doing so, you shall be indirectly indicating to the hiring manager that someone on the inside knows you. That is a strong message to send because it means that you can be trusted.
This is the reasoning behind many companies’ efforts to ask employees to tell their friends about vacancies.
Your contact person will then become a referee. They will most likely be asked a few questions about you.
Depending on their answers and their standing in the company, you can easily climb up the ladder.
Mention the Position
This is very important. Often, recruiters and hiring managers go through cover letters for different positions at the same time.
The company might be having several vacancies. If you don’t mention the position, your letter can be assumed to be for the wrong job.
Keep in mind that these people are busy. They need to sift through many applications. They cannot go through your letter to the end trying to find out what position you’re applying for so as to categorize it.
If your letter is wasting their time, it gets deleted or thrown away.
The easier you make life for the hiring manager, the more likely you are to be noticed and remembered.
State an Accomplishment
Very few things will interest the recruiter like your accomplishments. Your accomplishments indicate that you can produce results. Results are what employers want from every employee.
Of course, the accomplishments you write must be relevant. They have to relate to the position you are applying for.
For example, you may be applying for an online marketing manager’s position.
From your previous experiences, you may have excelled in both marketing and logistics.
But of these two experiences, the logistics work might have given you better results than marketing.
Despite that, you will lose the opportunity if you talked about the logistics results. You may try to connect logistics to marketing but that can be picked out and cause you to be ignored.
Your best bet would be to use the marketing results then tailor them to the current job position.
If all you did was run campaigns but never got the expected results, it will still be relevant. Just be positive in your wording.
The mention of numbers is important. As much as you didn’t get 150% improvement in your lead generation, you have something to show off. You will then use the interview to expound on these results.
Explain the exact situation you were in. Maybe the history was bad and your campaign was working to create a new marketing standard for the company.
Whatever it is, you will have an opportunity to explain.
The use of keywords is an important skill to develop. There is no way you are going to have the expected results from your cover letter if you don’t do this.
Keywords are specific words which when used, they add the value of your cover letter. They do this by showing the relevance of your letter to the job.
The use of keywords has been borrowed from the internet marketing space. This is the arena of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
As companies fight to get their websites and blogs on the first page of the Google search results page, many techniques have been implemented.
Keywords have been among the most used of these techniques. They tell the search engines that certain web pages have the relevant information an internet user is looking for.
Keywords have however been overused by some and they end up messing their campaigns rather than helping.
When it comes to your cover letter, do not cram keywords into your opening line. They are not all that is needed. They’re just part of it.
Do not go looking for keywords on the internet. The best place to find them would be the job advertisement you saw. Keywords will be the words defining the position and responsibilities as given by the company.
For example, a marketing manager’s job will have certain words as part of the content in the ad. These include online, marketing, lead generation, closing, sales, conversions etc.
Check which words have been used. From your understanding, establish the weight each carries and use the ones you think are most important to the company.
SAMPLE OPENING PARAGRAPHS
Here are three opening paragraphs to serve as examples. They implement the above tips for different job positions.
Hannah, your customer relationships manager, told me about your marketing director vacancy. With marketing experiences which include simultaneously running 2 campaign ideas to realize an average of 70% increase in lead generation, joining your marketing team would definitely be a great assignment.
Every software developer delights in the solutions he has developed. As one in the profession, having developed a data import/export tool for MySQL databases, working with you would be a nice opportunity to solve the real problems faced by database administrators daily.
From the 5-star Canopy Hotel to the Royal Beach Resort, positive customer feedback is what always gets me promoted. With the last position of a regional manager, we increased visitor numbers by 40% purely through referrals. Implementing the same strategy in your hotel chain would benefit both customers and the business.
HOW TO CLOSE YOUR COVER LETTER
The other important part of your cover letter is the closing.
You got the opening right but the closing also plays a vital role.
Essentially, it’s supposed to remind the reader what you have said. In doing so, the idea is to ensure the focus stays on your suitability.
For this to work, the flow has to be consistent from the beginning.
You cannot start well, have a lackluster body then finish well. If that is the case, then the reader may not get to the end.
She might conclude that you borrowed the opening from someone and that it was not your original idea.
Evidence? You were not able to sustain the flow.
The body of your letter isn’t very difficult to write about. That doesn’t mean that you just list qualifications. You must follow the strategy you started with.
When it comes to the closing, you need to pay attention to it just as you did at the beginning. Here are some tips for that.
Your confidence levels matter even before you get to the interview room. You need to display it now using the cover letter you are writing.
This will come through the words you use to describe yourself and the kind of value you expect to bring into the company.
High levels of confidence indicate that you are very comfortable with what you are saying.
The confidence says that you can reproduce the kind of results you had somewhere else.
You have something in you that will make the difference.
When your closing expresses confidence in the right way, the reader of your cover letter will see the assurance you are giving. She is more likely to take note and call you for an interview.
Hiring managers are more than glad to spot the right talent early in the process.
If they call you for an interview and decide that you’re the one, then the vacancy-filling process gets shortened.
This is a big advantage for the company because filling a vacancy is costly.
First there is the effort of drafting the advertisement, time and energy used in meetings to discuss candidates. Then there is the time the company loses because a part of its operations is not functioning.
A dysfunctional process is a potential loss-making process. It is therefore in the company’s best interest to conclude the hiring process as soon as possible.
When you portray the required skills beyond any doubt, you stand out and help them conclude the process faster.
Connect Your Skills to the Job
It is quite useless to state the skills and expertise you have when they don’t seem valuable to the job.
The issue of relevance is a major one. Many candidates apply for jobs just to get an income.
Whereas their situation is understandable, rarely will things work like that.
Unless you are availing yourself to an entry-level position which requires little experience, you are better off going for a job whose requirements you meet.
With an array of skills you have acquired over the years, you certainly don’t fall short of what to show off. But be careful to state only that which is connected to the job. Do not assume that the reader will connect the dots.
As intelligent as the reader is, her works should be made easier. After all, your effort also paints a picture of taking the initiative of explaining your suitability.
So go ahead and clearly spell out the connection between your skills and the requirements of the job. Better still, show how your skills are what the company needs to solve the problems they have.
This requires that you do some research on the job. Research is central to any job hunting process. You should find out what challenges the company is facing in the department you are looking to join.
That information is what you will use to show the real value of your skills and experiences. This will add the necessary weight to your application and help push you forward.
Connect Your Goals to the Company’s
Another thing which ranks highly with companies is the candidate’s goals. This is something you can be sure of being asked about in the interview.
You will have to talk about your short-term and long-term goals.
Though many candidates think that the short-term and long-term question is used to find out how much of visionaries they are, that is very far from the truth.
This question is used by interviewers to find out whether you are likely to stay with the company for a long time.
There is a big cost which every employer wants to avoid incurring. It is connected with hiring new employees too often. This is called employee turnover.
The dangers are obvious. The company ends up in a cycle of hiring and training new staff. In the end, there will be no real work going on in the company.
With a high turnover, there will be little time to carry out the actual work which makes the company profitable.
To avoid this, companies will seek to do away with anyone whose goals do not align with the company’s.
Reiterate Your Enthusiasm
As you finish your letter, do not forget to remind the reader that you are excited about the job. You did it at the beginning but you need to do it again. It’s all about consistency.
At this point however, you will be expressing your enthusiasm in a slightly different way. This is the closing of your letter. You are therefore concluding your pitch but still staying excited.
As such, you should not be generic and use the traditional “I look forward to hearing from you” finish.
Let your creativity show. Write something exciting to leave the reader asking for more.
Make her feel like she wants to call you for the interview right away.
Use the Right Closing
You have come to the very end of your cover letter. Bet herein lies a potential trap. You have an opportunity to mess everything up if you do a very small mistake.
Signing off your letter can say a lot about your perception of the person reading it. It can convey respect or the lack of it. It also shows whether you know the boundaries between formal and informal communication.
This is a huge problem in today’s technology-driven world. With chatting being more common than writing letters, informal words can find their way into your cover letter.
Hiring managers are very keen. They are also trained to spot potential insincerity in an applicant. If you finish your letter with something like “Cheers” or “Fondly,” you’ll have negated all the good effort.
These are too casual. But if you have been used to using them, you might find yourself writing them in your cover letter. To the hiring manager, this is a big inconsistency.
There is no way you will have been formal throughout the letter only to be informal at the end.
The conclusion might be that you’ve been faking it all along.
Cover letters are formal. Therefore ensure you stay within those boundaries.
Appropriate sign offs to use include “Regards,” “Respectfully” and “Sincerely.” Be careful to proofread your letter before uploading or sending via email. This will help you weed out mistakes.
SAMPLE CLOSING PARAGRAPHS
Here are three closing paragraphs to serve as examples of how to implement the above tips.
Being driven by the joy of bringing change, I look forward to showing you how I can reduce your production bottlenecks and boost productivity. It’s the same thing I did at XYZ manufacturers.
With a consistent record of improving conversion rates by at least 80% in my last two jobs, it would be an honor to do the same at Marshall’s Marketing.
Going by how easily I identify trends from data and use them for strategy development, I will no doubt help ABC Inc. utilize the records it has accumulated in the the 10 years of its existence. Leveraging this data will be all you need for a successful growth strategy.
With these tips, you can confidently write your cover letter and be sure that you will stand out.
Your application will not only be more noticeable but also remembered.
That’s exactly what you need.