The Truth About Cover Letters


I'm sure you have all heard my soapbox style rants about cover letters by now. It's true that I've stated many opinions about how I find them archaic and unnecessary. However, I'm here to tell you that I am adjusting my opinion a little bit.

Pause for reaction.

Lately, I have had several clients, as well as friends, ask me about when cover letters might be appropriate. The truth is, as I started working with more women who are looking to change their careers in a big way, standing out is a must. That said, I don't always recommend a cover letter when you're looking to make a job transition very similar to what you're already doing. Your experience will speak for itself, and truthfully when the recruiter sees that, they more than likely won't read your cover letter.

However, when you are looking to make a big transition (whether it is an industry change, or complete career 180), I do believe a cover letter is wise when done in the right way.

Given I had this epiphany, I decided to share with you a few tips on how to make your cover letter stand out so it actually gets read and not tossed to the side (believe me, I have read only a select few, and they were the ones that really grabbed me).

3 Things Your Cover Letter Should Be

1. Unique. Don't copy/paste a template for every job you apply for. A great cover letter really is unique to each company and job you apply for. This calls for a tailored format, content, and approach. Some organizations might be a bit more conservative in their approach, so you might appear a bit more formal in a letter to them than you would be when applying for a cool tech startup. This all goes back to doing your research about the company and the job you're applying for.

2. Personal. Much like making your cover letter unique to each job, you'll want to take it a step further and make each letter personal as well. Did you read a great article about a charity they company is involved with that really resonated with you? Mention that. Is their CEO in the press for speaking on a panel or at a conference that you find interesting? Speak about it! Show your interest in the organization.

3. Relevant. Make sure your cover letter tells a story. Who you are, what you want, why you want it and how you can be an asset. That said, I would recommend taking the job description and pulling a few key bullets from it that you can highlight in the cover letter to share how you can help achieve those tasks. For example, if the job description indicates that they need someone who has leadership experience in managing a remote team, speak about how you have successfully done that (only if you have, that is. Don't lie. Lying is bad).

Now that you have the framework down, there are some general formatting and rules of thumb that will also make your cover letter easier on the eyes.

  • Keep it to one page: Don't go into overdrive mode with your accomplishments.
  • No photos: That's what LinkedIn is for. The end.
  • Save as PDF: PDF just makes everything look better. It's more professional. Do it.
  • Address it properly: Do not use the phrase "To Whom it May Concern" to address your cover letter. Please don't. If you don't have a direct name, then use something like Dear (insert company name) team.

Key takeaways here, y'all: If you're going to do a cover letter, do it right. Put in the time and effort to make it special. If you don't, then I would expect it to go unread.

Happy writing!