In general, a recruiter - internal or external - will only read your cover letter after they’ve reviewed your resume and decided that you’re a possible “GO.”

Here’s how to write a cover letter for a resume that landed you in the “GO” pile ⁠— one that moves you from that pile, to the interview process:

Write Succinctly

The recruiter will only skim your cover letter, they will not read it thoroughly. You have about 10-30 seconds for anything to stand out. If they see a giant block of text or a 2-page cover letter, I can promise you they’re not reading it. Recruiters like to see things in short bursts of information. Do not write the preamble to the constitution.

Instead, think of your cover letter as a press release. When a company puts out a press release they tell you just a few things, only the pieces of information that are needed to get the message across.

Write a paragraph or two, max.

If you could picture a conversation between two decision makers at a company, one where they’re discussing you, what would the internal recruiter say? Which 3-5 things would be crucial for the hiring manager know about you in order to move the needle and convince them that you are worth interviewing?

Remember how we talked about helping the recruiter help you?

When you succinctly explain why you’re a fit for the role, in a way that’s easily understandable, it makes their job easier. They didn’t have to search for that information, which means you’ve saved them time and energy, which is huge.

(Need help writing your cover letter? Click here to see how we can assist!)

Clearly State Your USP

Your USP (unique selling proposition) helps the gatekeeper decide if their needs match what you’re offering. You can be qualified for the position, but your unique selling proposition is what makes you different from everyone else applying. That’s what your cover letter should be communicating:

Why are you different, and how does that difference affect the company's position and the team you’re applying to?

Most “experts” would also tell you to expand on what’s in your resume. I would amend that advice to say, “Expand on why and what in your resume is relevant to the company, position, objectives, and/or team you are applying to.”

For example, "My experience has taught me this…” or “I can help your company by doing …” or “Your current problem is similar to a challenge I handled at XYZ Company.” You want to link your experience to the company or position’s needs (Hint: you know what those needs are because you’ve done your research).

Employers, recruiters, and hiring managers want to know in 30 seconds: Why you are a good fit for this role?

Don’t Do Any of These Things

In addition to writing succinctly and relaying your USP in an upbeat, professional, yet conversational tone, you’ll want to avoid the ten following pitfalls when writing your cover letter:

  1. Copying and pasting your resume into your cover letter
  2. Copying and pasting the job description into your cover letter
  3. Telling your personal “story” (about your parents or family)
  4. Being overly descriptive
  5. Restating or repeating what’s already in your resume
  6. Making your cover letter 1-2 pages or “longer than it needs to be”
  7. Including fun facts about you
  8. Fitting in as much as possible
  9. Sharing personal information such as gender, age, xexual orientation, religion, or political views
  10. Having your picture embedded in your cover letter (or resume for that matter)

Like much of the advice we offer, this approach to cover letter writing probably challenges much of what you’ve been taught elsewhere. People who take a different approach in life are the ones who stand out. Stop doing what you’ve always done, so that you can start getting the results you’ve always wanted!

Write a succinct, intentional cover letter that tells employers exactly how you can help them and you’ll see the responses you’re hoping for.

Click here to learn how we help job seekers like you build conversation-starting cover letters every day!