Your Cover Letter Checklist

This step by step checklist will guide you through the process of writing and optimizing your cover letter for a job.

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Overview

What you should know before you write your cover letter.

What you should do

Remember the goal of your cover letter

Employers use cover letters to decide if you're a good fit for their company, beyond just the hard skills and experience (which is usually on your resume). Always keep this in mind as you write your cover letter - employers are looking for evidence of your soft skills, enthusiasm and personality - things they can't get out of your resume.

⭐️   Some employers care about cover letters a lot, while some ask for them but don't primarily use them for consideration. In all cases, however, a cover letter that shows enthusiasm and passion for the specific job can move an applicant from the maybe to the yes pile.

⭐️   Avoid fancy templates. A simple Word document is the standard format.

Don't just summarize your resume

Think about it. When employers ask for both a cover letter and a resume, they don't want one to just be a duplicate of the other in paragraph form!

⭐️   The number one rule of cover letters is that if you decide to send one, it needs to say something your resume doesn't. For example, you can write about how your interests/passion relate to the role - this is something that won't be on a resume.

⭐️   You can describe accomplishments you stated in your resume, as long as you use a unique angle. For example, if on your resume you wrote about running a workshop, you can use your cover letter to describe how running workshops have helped you developed specific skill sets that the job requires.

Address questions a recruiter might have about you

If you don't have the 'ideal' background for the role, your cover letter is your opportunity to explain why you're a good fit. For example, if you're underqualified, overqualified, or your experience is in a different industry (i.e. a career changer), the cover letter can be your way of showing a hiring manager that you're a good fit, although it isn't obvious just from your resume.

⭐️   If you have an usual background or you're changing careers, use the cover letter to explain how your current skills will translate into the new role.

Change your tone depending on the industry

Use a warm, conversational tone for most non-formal industries, e.g. technology companies, startups, hospitality, etc. For formal industries like banking/finance or legal, use a more formal tone.

⭐️   Personality is important when it comes to cover letters. Employers, particularly smaller companies, want to know if you're a good fit in terms of culture.


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Introduction

Here's how to start your cover letter.

What you should do

Salutation

If you can easily find the name of the hiring manager, address it to them directly. If you can't, 'Dear Hiring Manager," is totally fine.

⭐️   Don't assume a hiring manager's gender, so avoid using, "Dear Sir".

⭐️   Even "Dear Sir/Madam" or "To whom it may concern" are considered unnecessarily formal and outdated; stick to "Dear Hiring Manager" if you can't find a name.

Introduce who you are

In the first paragraph, quickly mention what position you're seeking.

Examples:
- I'm excited to apply for the X role. I'm confident that my background and expertise would serve Y well and leave a lasting impression in your ABC department.
- I am excited to apply for the position of X at Y.
- I've been following ABC Corp for years and recently saw that you're looking for an X to join the Y team.
- It’s with great enthusiasm that I am applying to be your next X.

⭐️   Don't overthink the opening line, it doesn't need to be that creative!

⭐️   Don't say, "My name is…" - your name is already at the bottom of your resume!

⭐️   Use the job title that was used in the job posting

Mention how you found out about the opening (optional)

If you heard about the company/job in an interesting way (e. g. through a personal connection, networking event), include it here.
For example: I recently attended the AcmeCorp Graduates Webinar, and I was thrilled when ABC’s CEO mentioned there was an opening for a project manager role on the Maps team. I believe this position is an excellent fit for my background and interests.

⭐️   If you found out about the posting on Indeed or while mass applying to jobs, that's fine too! You don't always have to have a creative story for applying to a company - just say you were excited to come across the opening.

⭐️   Try to show personality in your cover letter by using phrases like, "I'm excited" or "I was thrilled"


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Body paragraphs

Use two to three paragraphs to discuss why you are a good fit for the role,

What you should do

Why you? Why the industry? Why this company?

This is a common structure that you can optionally use when writing your cover letter. The most important is why you're a good fit for the role (why you?) while the next paragraph is

⭐️   This structure is just for guidance of areas you can cover.

⭐️   Example of how to tie in the company to your experiences: I am especially drawn by X's commitment to [something they're known for, e.g. working in small teams] which would ensure [why it's important to you, e.g. significant responsibility and exposure to senior professionals early in my career. This commitment to ... is my central reason for applying.]

Describe your accomplishments while weaving in your soft skills

Show, don't tell. Explain how you have demonstrated the soft skills the job/industry requires by using real examples from your experience. Avoid just saying "I have great attention to detail and exceptional communication skills." State specific examples which demonstrate this, whether that's writing up a 100 page report for the management team, presenting to key stakeholders, etc.

⭐️   Where possible, use numbers and metrics to make your accomplishments more impressive. Did you increase revenue? Decrease costs? Improve % efficiency?

⭐️   Avoid arrogant hyperboles, like "thought leader" or "expert"!

Personalize your skills to the job description

Review the job description and highlight keywords and skills that are clearly very important for the role and industry. Use them in your cover letter.

⭐️   Our Targeted Resume tool helps you identify keywords from the job description. It's built for resumes but the technology works equally well for cover letters too if you just need to enter the job description.

Culture

Your cover letter is not just about aligning your hard and soft skills to the job description. Describe also how your unique personal experiences align to the company's values and culture.

⭐️   Example: Resume Worded is a company that attains diversity at all levels – whether it is through its diverse clientele from a number of industries or through the global nature of its employees. My experiences in London, New York and Tokyo have increased my appreciation for such diversity reinforcing my belief that a career at Resume Worded will provide both the knowledge in a wide variety of fields and the opportunity to interact and work with people even more diverse than myself.

If you don't have experience, describe your transferrable skills

If you don't have the 'ideal' background for the role, your cover letter is your opportunity to explain why you're a good fit. For example, if you're underqualified, overqualified, or your experience is in a different industry (i.e. a career changer), the cover letter can be your way of showing a hiring manager that you're a good fit, although it isn't obvious just from your resume.

⭐️   Describe specific projects you worked on that require similar skill sets to the one this job requires.


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Conclusion

Here's the best way to end your cover letter.

What you should do

Use a standard conclusion statement

The conclusion is a simple one or two liner. Examples:
"I'm confident that my skills and experience would be a great asset to ABC Corp, and I'd love to chat with you about the role in more detail. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon."
"I’d be thrilled with the opportunity to learn more about the role, and would love to talk to you about the contributions I can make at the ABC Corp. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon."

⭐️   You can also briefly restate why you're a good fit for the role with an additional sentence (e.g. I'm confident that my passion for X and Y will make me a great addition to the Z team, or I'm confident my X and Y skills will allow me positively contribute to a project team at Z)

End the letter with your name and contact details

A simple signature works fine: "
Sincerely,
[Your name]
+1 234 56789
youremail@resumeworded.com
LinkedIn URL"

⭐️   A link to your LinkedIn profile is optional, but recommended


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Final things

Before you send off your cover letter.

What you should do

Length

Keep your cover letters to around 200 - 300 words. Lengthy cover letters are less likely to be read.

⭐️   In terms of page length, keep it to 3/4 of a page to one page. Two pages is often too long (unless a longer cover letter is explicitly asked for)

No spelling or grammatical errors

Spelling errors are a strict no-no. Make sure you have triple-checked your spelling and grammar.

⭐️   Also ensure you have correctly spelled industry standard terminology.

Sufficiently personalized

We get it. Writing a unique cover letter for every single job can get pretty tedious. However, recruiters can easily tell when a cover letter isn't personalized at all, so you want to sufficiently personalize your cover letter to the position. That could be adding in a few sentences about the company's culture and how that relates to you, or highlight a few specific skills from the job description.

⭐️   Here are two tests to figure out if your cover letter is sufficiently personalized: 1) Can you swap out just the company's name for a totally different company and everything still fits? If so, it's probably too generic. And 2) Can you imagine other applicants sending the same letter? If so, it's likely not personalized enough to you.


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Good luck!

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