Watch your language.
Applicant tracking software looks for keywords in resumes and cover letters that literally match the job description listed by the employer. So your uploaded letter needs to include as many of those words as possible. “Use the exact language they use,” says Horowitz. The software identifies exact matches and near-matches, but the more direct hits, the better. When applying directly to hiring managers, however, you can’t parrot back their exact words, says Horowitz: “If it’s a person, give them a rewrite of what they want—same points, different language—in a way that respects their intelligence.”
Don’t worry if you’re not Hemingway.
Effective cover letters require clarity, not creativity. They’re not a test of your narrative skills; you can even use bullet points to get your points across, according to Lawson. If you show that you’ve done your homework, understand the job, and have the particular skills to fit the employer’s particular needs, you’ve written a good letter. Having a voice and showing some personality is fine, as long as it doesn’t obscure what you’re really trying to communicate: How you can help the company.
Know the nuts and bolts.
Cover letters have become less formal and more personal, perhaps because they’re delivered through email or online. Here’s what to say in a cover letter, and how to say it:
Subject field: the job title.
Salutation: “Dear Hiring Manager,” or if you have an exact name, “Dear Mr./Ms. Whatever.”
First paragraph: match up what you know about the company’s needs with your skills, strengths and experience. State what you can do to help.
Middle paragraph(s): explain anything on your resume that may raise questions—why you left your previous job in less than a year, or why you’re looking to switch careers. You can also offer more specific examples of how your experience fits perfectly with their requirements. “Include an anecdote that portrays you as a problem solver,” suggests Horowitz. “Then add: ‘I’d be happy to elaborate on this in an interview.’ Remember, however, that it’s about them, not you, so beware of overselling yourself. “Don’t go too over the top with the details; you don’t want to over-focus on any one minute detail,” says Shannon.
Last paragraph: state how to reach you: email address, phone number, the best time to call. If you think that money may be a deal breaker, you can give salary requirement to save everyone the time and hassle of finding out later.
Sign off: “Look forward to hearing from you.”
Follow instructions exactly for an effective cover letter. If the application directions say to upload a cover letter, do it—even if you plan to send it in the body of an email as well. Ignoring the cover letter rules is the quickest way for you, and your cover letter, to get bounced.
Cover letter sample in response to a Monster job posting
You see a job on Monster but are unsure how the cover letter you send should read. Get answers here.
If you see a job posting online and it sounds exquisitely suited to you, you probably feel compelled to submit not only your resume but a customized cover letter as well. But job seekers often struggle with constructing an effective cover letter. View our sample cover letter below:
Dear (insert name or "Hiring Manager" if name is unknown):
Your advertisement on Monster for a (insert job title) fits my experience and qualifications perfectly, and I am writing to express my interest in and enthusiasm for the position. As an accomplished sales leader, I have achieved seven-figure revenue growth, international market penetration and successful product launches for leading global corporations during my career.
In addition to my desire to join your team, you will find I am a dedicated and driven professional whose recent accomplishments include:
- An increase of international sales from 1 percent of the company's total revenue to 75 percent, capturing more than half of the entire European market and one-third of the Latin American market within two years.
- Dramatic expansion of customer base, leading to seven-figure revenue growth rates that far exceed the pace of larger, more established competitors.
- Development of a 75-member dealer network across 30 countries in six continents.
- Attainment of 100 percent customer retention rate through expert relationship-building skills and a commitment to a solution-focused, service-first sales approach.
- Launch of a new London office, expected to double sales revenue by 2012.
- Introduction of three innovative product lines, following comprehensive market research and competitive-intelligence gathering.
Your software products are truly on the cutting edge of technology -- you offer products that can change the way a company conducts business on the Internet. I am excited by this technology and would be able to translate this excitement to a business benefit for your current and future clients. If you agree that my qualifications are a close fit to your needs, I would be delighted to meet with you personally to discuss strategies for expanding (name of company's) market presence.
I will follow up with you in a few days to answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, you may reach me at (phone number) or via email at (email address). I look forward to our conversation.