As we all know, writing a great cover letter that will get a hiring manager’s attention is no small feat. The best cover letters are customized for each and every unique job and company. This can be time-consuming but is a super-successful technique for getting your cover letter read and into the interview pile.
But aside from customization, what details are hiring managers looking for when reading job applicants’ cover letters? I can say from experience they’re much simpler than you might think.
1. Include job- and company-specific content that shows you did your research.
Think of writing your cover letter as a sales pitch. You’re essentially selling yourself, your skills, and your knowledge to the company. Therefore, hiring managers are looking for details that show you’re familiar with the company and that you would make a good fit.
You don’t have to go all out with these details. But by customizing your cover letter for each job description and making note of any industry-related news, new products, or recent announcements, it shows you’re paying attention.
2. Share actions and results from your work experience that relate to that position, not your personal life.
Hiring managers truly want to know the details of your past work experience that pertain to the job at hand. This means you don’t need to highlight all of your great skills and experiences. Again, this is where your strategic thinking should come into play.
If you’re not sure where to begin, consider examples of times when your top skills came in handy and consider how that sets you apart for this particular job. Don’t forget: Hiring managers don’t want to hear about your personal life, goals, or needs—only about how you can contribute to the company.
3. Write short paragraphs with succinct details.
While all the details above are great for a cover letter, hiring managers want to receive this information in short and succinct paragraphs. You should focus on making it easy for them to read your cover letter. Don’t get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of a past project—simply share the most important details that get your point across. Situation, action, results.
4. Ensure it’s professional-quality and error-free content.
This last detail is so simple, yet you’d be surprised how often it’s ignored. When writing a cover letter, never forget to proofread your work. If you’re customizing each cover letter to every job description, it’s easy to miss some details here and there. But if a hiring manager sees an error, your cover letter will go straight into the “no” pile. The same goes for cover letters that aren’t written professionally. While creativity is great, keep your writing professional and politically correct.
Never forget your cover letter is about what you can do for the company and why you make a good fit for both the position and the organization—and nothing else. Hiring managers are reading your cover letter quickly, so make it short, professional, and give them the details they want to see.
What other details are hiring managers looking for in cover letters? Share your tips in the comments!
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder and president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How to Score a Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships ($10, amazon.com) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle ($17.50, amazon.com), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.