How to Write a Winning Cover Letter

Person writing a winning cover letter at Addison Group

Cover letters – they’re like a recurring guest star when filling out job applications. Sometimes a cover letter is required; other times, they’re optional or not needed at all to move forward in the hiring process.

Since cover letters aren’t always needed for a job application, many people might not have a complete picture of what goes into writing them. At Addison Group, we’ve seen our share of good and not-so-good cover letters. We’re here to help you with the ins and outs of writing a winning cover letter. Read along to learn why cover letters can be useful and some inside tips into writing a captivating one.

Why are Cover Letters Important?

Resumes are the main way an employer gets to know you before an interview and weeds out qualified versus unqualified candidates.

Even though they’re not always required for an application, cover letters offer another opportunity to share more details about your work experience outside of the technical skills you highlight on your resume. It also allows you to show the hiring manager who you are aside from your skills and qualifications. Cover letters give you a chance to explain why your professional experiences make you a good fit for the position and how you can add value to their organization. Another option to convey this information is to include it in the summary portion of your LinkedIn profile. A cover letter can be a great opportunity to explain any gaps in employment or why you might be exploring a new role or industry.

An important note: if a cover letter is not listed anywhere on an application, don’t submit one. First, it’s extra work for yourself. Secondly, sending more paperwork than required could be seen as a red flag from a hiring manager.

Tips and Tricks to Write a Winning Cover Letter

Now that we’ve outlined the value of cover letters, here are some good tips for writing a winning cover letter:

  1. Formatting: Formatting is essential when writing a cover letter. First, if possible, tailor your heading to address the hiring manager. If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, stick with something more general like ‘Dear Hiring Team’. Finally, your cover letter should not exceed a page. Ideally, you should make it around three to four paragraphs and under 400 words.
  2. Know what you’ll write about: When deciding what you’ll write about, break it down by what type of information you would include in each paragraph.  
    • First Paragraph
      • You should give a brief introduction of yourself
      • Explain how you found the role you’re applying for
    • Second Paragraph
      • Highlight specific skills and share how you’ve applied and grown these skills in previous positions
      • Share experiences that show these skills in action. You want to highlight how you’re uniquely qualified for the role
    • Third Paragraph
      • Close out your letter with a summary of why you would be good for the role
  3. Make it stand out: Like resumes, each cover letter should be unique to the job you’re applying for. If you stick with a standard cover letter for every application, you won’t see many hiring managers contacting you for an interview. Tailor your cover letter to match the keywords in the job description.

Cover Letters are Only a Small Fraction of Trying to Get a Job

Your cover letters can affect an employer’s decision to move forward with you in the hiring process. Use the tips above and you’ll be on the fast track to getting interviews and finding a new job.

Even though these tips can help make a part of the application process seamless, you’ll inevitably hit roadblocks along the way – and that’s where Addison Group can help. With more than 20 years of experience, we make it our mission to place great talent like yourself into jobs that align with your career goals. Contact us today to find a job you’ll love!

Download our cover letter example


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