10 Cover Letter Tips & Tricks Sure to Score Job Interviews [2020 Ed.]

Writing a cover letter? With our cover letter tips and writing hacks, you’re sure to write one that impresses and lands you an interview!

Ready to get started writing your cover letter?

A cover letter, at first glance, may seem like a daunting task, harder to complete than the responsibilities at the job you’re applying for.

However, with our cover letter tips, tricks, and writing hacks, you’re sure to find it’s way easier than you’d thought.

So, let’s get to it!


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Here are our top cover letter tips to help you score an interview:

1. Tailor Each Cover Letter for One Particular Job

This is one of our most important resume tips, but it’s also one of the most crucial cover letter tips, as well.

What does tailoring a cover letter mean, exactly?

To tailor a cover letter means that you write one cover letter specifically for each job you apply to. It mentions the company and job position by name, and it covers exactly why you are a great fit for this organization, job title, department, and the company culture overall.

Hiring managers look at dozens, if not hundreds, of cover letters every day; to get invited to the interview, you need to stand out from the crowd. Writing a generic cover letter does the exact opposite while also showing the recruiter or HR representative that you couldn’t care less about actually getting a response.

While it may sound time-consuming, it pays off in the long run. Actually, not tailoring your cover letter is the actual waste of time, because you’ll just be applying to more and more jobs without getting that phone call back.

2. Research the Company Before You Begin

Before you start writing your cover letter, it’s important to research the company. Not only will this help you write a tailored cover letter, but it will advise you on what to write in the body to tickle their fancy.

Begin first by researching the position you’re applying for at your company so you’ll be able to understand and speak to exactly what they’re looking for as an employee. A graphic designer or administrative assistant or junior accountant at Company A will have different job responsibilities, necessary skills, and cultural fit than the same exact position at Company B.

Next, research the team you’re applying to be a part of. This may be easier for larger companies, but it can definitely prepare you for success. Are you applying to join their marketing team? Learn about their past campaigns, their marketing “voice,” and any other information so you can detail how you envision yourself helping the team grow and accomplish their goals.

Finally, research the company itself. From their founders and history to the company culture and future plans, knowing the company on a more intimate level will help you write a can’t-be-beat cover letter, as well as impress them at the interview to follow!

Related Read: 10+ Job Search Tips & Tricks to Up Your Chances of Landing an Interview

3. Find the Hiring Manager’s Name

This probably belongs with researching the company, but I figured I’d give it its own entry because it’s important.

If you can avoid it—and you usually can—you don’t want to start your cover letter with “To whom it may concern” or “Dear sir or madam.” 

Do you know that famous quote by Dale Carnegie, author of How To Win Friends and Influence People, one of the best business books to read? He says, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

So, open your cover letter with a salutation that uses this sweet, most important sound! Search on LinkedIn, the company’s website, or even call up the receptionist to learn what the name of the hiring manager, recruiter, HR representative, or department manager is, and you’ll go a long way towards winning them over before you even get to the content of your cover letter!

4. Don’t Repeat Your Resume

Some people just use their cover letter to basically repeat everything they already mentioned on their cover letter, perhaps just in more complete sentences.

Don’t do this.

A cover letter should be complementary to your resume. Use it to go more in-depth on certain skills you have and how they relate to the job you’re applying for. Or, explain why there’s an employment gap on your resume, for instance, as that’s usually something they’ll want to clear up.

Reiterating your resume on your cover letter only gives them the same document twice, only in different formats; it’s like sending them your resume as a PDF and also as a Word document. Instead, your cover letter should add value to your resume if you want it to add value to your chances as a prospective job candidate!

Related Read: What to Bring to an Interview? 10+ Things to Take for Your Big Meeting

5. Always Send a Cover Letter When Applying for a Job

These are all great cover letter tips and all, but do you even need a cover letter in the first place?

Absolutely!

Cover letters are just as important—if not more—as the resume it accompanies. Worse case scenario is they don’t read it at all and focus on your resume, but this is highly unlikely. And, as they say, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.  

However, read the job description just to be sure. If it specifically demands you not to apply with a cover letter, then don’t, of course. Also, if you’re applying through a proprietary application system, you might fill out all your information there and have no place to upload or paste your cover letter, and that’s fine—unfortunate, but fine.

But, in every other case, include a cover letter! 

6. Format Your Cover Letter Right

As we discussed earlier, a cover letter should follow formal letter protocol and rules, even if the content you write in the body is more on the informal side.

Here’s how a cover letter should be formatted:

Your First & Last Name
Your Address

Date of Writing

Name of Company Representative
Their Department
Company Name
Company Address

Salutation

Opening Paragraph to Introduce Yourself

Cover Letter Body Paragraphs

Ending Paragraph

Closing Sentiment
Your Name

If you follow this cover letter format, you’ll at least have the structure right. Feel free to copy and paste this onto your blank cover letter document and use it as a guide when writing yours!

Related Read: Internships 101: Everything You Should Know About Internship Programs

7. Don’t Mention the EXACT Role You’re Applying For

This is one of the very specific cover letter tips, but it can be quite handy and only for the best.

In your cover letter opening statement, when you mention your formal application for such-and-such position, leave off any qualifying seniority levels if they’re on the low end.

For example, say you’re applying for the junior sales representative opening Company A has. On your cover letter, write that you’re applying for the open sales representative position (leaving off the “junior”). 

If the company only has the junior position to fill, then fine, they’ll know you meant that. But, if they also had a mid-level sales rep role to hire for, they could weigh your experience and fitfulness for that higher-level position, as well. You never know—you could have earned yourself a promotion before you even arrived at the interview!

8. Stay Professional While Also Showing Your Personality

Cover letters are business documents, so you should keep them formally formatted (which we’ll talk about shortly). However, let your personality shine through, as well.

When you hand in the job application package consisting of your resume and cover letter, your resume is the all-business document. It’s monotonous in nature, with curt sentences, bullet points, and lists of skills.

With that being the case, use your job cover letter to show some personality. Like I mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t write “Dear sir or madam,” because it’s not personal and seems rather generic. The same goes with the actual content within the cover letter body. Let your excitement for the opportunity of being hired to work for this company shine through. Show your enthusiasm for the role you’re asking to take on. Display passion for your past work, and they’ll easily imagine you working for them, soon enough!

Related Read: How to Use Goodwall’s Web Profile to Land a Job or Internship Opportunity

9. Proofread Your Cover Letter Thoroughly

Before you even think about sending your cover letter, proofread!

One of the biggest cover letter mistakes, and one of the biggest turn-offs for hiring managers, is to receive a resume or cover letter with a misspelled word or a grammatical error. Most typos are easily announced by your word processor software, whether it’s Google Docs, Microsoft Office, or another program, but they can make mistakes, too, particularly when a word you misspelled is a correctly-spelled different word. 

Also, beware of cover letter errors involving dates you worked, goals you achieved, or responsibilities you had. To make sure everything reads correctly and well, hand your cover letter (and job resume) to a friend, relative, or, better yet, the career counselor at your high school or college, if you’re lucky enough to have one. They may just spot something you had missed, even after several reads!

10. Don’t Lie in Your Cover Letter

Lying on a cover letter is a sure way to get your application tossed out. And, if for some reason you lie and make it all the way to getting hired, you’ll just have a longer way to fall when they do finally learn the truth—and they almost always do!

Be humbly honest in your cover letter when talking about an employment gap or other incident you may be embarrassed about. Recruiters and HR managers know that candidates will have patches of time without work—it would be almost a miracle if you didn’t have a career gap sooner or later! So, stay truthful on your cover letter, and you’ll be just fine. 

Better yet, don’t lie at any point in your employment process!

Related Read: Work From Home Jobs: 13 Best Remote & Online Jobs for 2020 & Beyond

Well, that’s all our cover letter tips for now, but we’ll keep it updated by adding more. We hope you found this guide helpful! If you have any questions, feedback, or other tips for writing cover letters to add to our list, let us know below in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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Christian Eilers
Written By Christian Eilers
is a writer and expert on the topics of education, entrepreneurship, career advice, travel, and culture. On the Goodwall Blog, he covers topics including self-improvement, social impact, college preparation, career development, climate action, and more. Christian is originally from New York City and now resides in Warsaw, Poland. At his desk, you're sure to find Pickwick, his Devon Rex cat, either attacking his fingers as he types or the monitor as the mouse pointer moves around.

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