Future of Work

7 things hiring managers want to see in your cover letter

Kathleen Elkins
Editorial intern, Business Insider
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Some executives think cover letters are far more important than résumés.

They give a glimpse into your personality in a way that a list of accomplishments can’t.

Cover letters can be intimidating though, and it can be tricky to know where to start.

We turned to career expert and founder of career consulting firm Résumé Strategists, Alyssa Gelbard, to find out how to write an amazing cover letter that will impress hiring managers.

Here are the seven most essential things to incorporate:

1. Include the job details.

This may seem trivial, but the little details are important.

“Always mention the specific job title for which you’re applying, as the person to whom you are reaching out could be conducting several concurrent searches,” says Gelbard. Also be sure to include where you saw the job opening (e.g. LinkedIn or the company website).

2. Show your value.

Cover letters are a great opportunity to expand on the accomplishments listed in your résumé. Don’t be afraid to brag a little bit, suggests Gelbard.

“Include why you would be an asset to the company, the unique things you have to offer, and how they would benefit from having you on their team,” she says. “You should also highlight relevant experience and expertise, and important things that would be of interest to hiring managers, like if you worked for their largest competitor for 10 years.”

3. Infuse some personality.

Use the cover letter to put a face and personality behind the facts that your résumé presents. However, be wary of getting too personal or unprofessional.

“It’s okay to show a little personality in your cover letter, but you want to strike the right balance between being overly formal and too informal,” Gelbard explains. “It’s best to err on the more formal side, but you don’t need to sound boring or robotic. Let your passion and enthusiasm come through, as long as it doesn’t sound fluffy.”

4. Use specific words and phrases from the job description.

Make things easier on yourself by using what is right in front of you. “When a company posts a job description, they’re saying, ‘here’s what we need,’ so you want to use that same language to be relevant when you’re explaining why you’re an ideal candidate for the position,” says Gelbard.

Plus, using key words from the job description will help you if the company uses an automated application screening system.

5. Include a referral.

Give yourself an immediate leg up over other candidates by leveraging your network and establishing a connection with the hiring manager from the get-go.

“If you’re reaching out to a person at the recommendation of someone else, always lead with that,” suggests Gelbard. “This gets noticed quickly by whomever is reading your letter and will help you stand out.”

6. Label your attachments.

This sounds insignificant, but once again, the small stuff matters.

“Be cognizant of your document name,” Gelbard warns. “You may have gone through many drafts of a cover letter and ultimately finalize draft version six, for example, but make sure you don’t include that in the document title. Keep it short and easily referenced.”

Also, if you’re emailing your cover letter as an attachment (rather than in the body of an email), always send it as a PDF, she says.

7. Only include relevant information. 

“Keep it short,” Gelbard suggests. “You don’t need to restate your whole résumé in a cover letter. A cover letter should be no more than a few paragraphs.”

This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

To keep up with the Agenda subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Author: Kathleen Elkins is an editorial intern at Business Insider.

Image: A woman uses a computer keyboard in this photo illustration taken in Sydney. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne
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