How to Write a Cover Letter That Works: 13 Expert Tips
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To a lot of job seekers, writing a cover letter is about as much fun as getting a cavity filled. But while it can be a daunting task, crafting a great cover letter is worth the effort.
In fact, 90% of executives say a cover letter is valuable for job applicants, according to a Robert Half survey — especially if you don’t have your foot in the door with a personal connection.
Cover letters offer the chance to share your voice, show your personality, and advocate for yourself as the best candidate for a job.
How to write a cover letter and land a work from home job
So how can you produce a powerful cover letter that impresses a hiring manager and lands you an interview for your dream job? To boost your chances, follow these 13 tips on how to write a cover letter that works.
1. Address your letter to a person, not a “whom”
Thanks to the world wide web, it’s easier than ever to dig up information on a company and its employees. Instead of using an anonymous “To Whom It May Concern” as your intro, address your cover letter to a specific person.
Search for the right person on a company website, or reach out to employees on LinkedIn for guidance. Writing to an individual will personalize your letter, as well as show you went the extra mile to research the team.
2. Engage your reader from the beginning
A hiring manager might be reading through dozens of cover letters, so try to hook their attention right at the get-go.
A line like, “My name is Joe and I’m applying to the writing position with XYZ Company” is a total snooze-fest and sounds amateurish.
Although you do want to name the position and company somewhere in the first paragraph, you can get more creative with how you start.
For example, “I came across your opening for a writer on LinkedIn and am eager to put my name forward as an applicant. I’ve been working as a freelance writer for the past five years, and…”
Alternatively, you could pitch for yourself right off the bat: “I’m a skilled writer with five years of experience pitching and writing for major national publications. As a writer with your company, I would bring…”
Or you could get even more creative and share a short personal anecdote. “My passion for storytelling dates back to 1995, when I pored through the pages of XYZ Magazine every night before bedtime. Joining your legendary publishing team in the position of writer would fulfill a lifelong dream.”
Whatever approach you choose, make sure to explain why you’re applying and what makes you qualified. Avoid extraneous details that could lose your reader’s attention before they get to the rest of your letter. And if you have a personal connection within the company, feel free to mention it here, too.
3. Keep your letter short, simple, and to the point
In most cases, your cover letter should only be a page, so you don’t have room for unnecessary words or flowery language. Cut out the fluff and boring explanations, and get right to the point with engaging, carefully selected language.
Although you might struggle to leave things out, remember that short pieces of writing are often more powerful than long ones.
As the famous quote goes, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
Instead of going on and on, make it your goal to communicate a lot while keeping word count to a minimum.
4. Don’t just repeat what’s on your resume
Your cover letter is a chance to share your voice and promote yourself as a candidate. It’s not meant to simply repeat what’s already on your resume.
Although you can include relevant experiences and qualifications, you don’t need to reiterate every work experience you’ve ever had, nor do you need to waste your reader’s time with specific facts, figures, and dates.
Instead of repeating your resume, showcase additional details about yourself that are relevant to the job at hand.
5. Focus on the value you can bring to the company
Although it’s easy to talk about what you want next for your career, instead focus on what value you can bring to the company.
This might be a subtle shift, but it can make a big impression on your reader. The hiring manager is looking for someone who can excel in the role and help move the company forward.
Show that you understand the job description and organizational mission, and make sure the hiring manager knows what you’d bring to the table if you got hired.
6. Highlight notable achievements and qualifications
Instead of giving a general description of your past jobs, instead try to zero in on your achievements. Otherwise, your cover letter could start to sound like everyone else’s.
Before you start writing, brainstorm a few notable accomplishments and qualifications that would make you the best candidate for the job.
You might even use bullet points to make your accomplishments stand out and improve the readability of your cover letter.
7. Match the style and tone of the company
In some cases, a cover letter is a chance to share your personality and even inject humor into your application. But make sure to consider the tone of the company before going too off-book.
If it’s more traditional, you might want to stick with a formal tone. But if it has a more informal vibe — like many of these work-from-home start-ups — you could have more leeway to get creative.
Hiring managers look for candidates who will be a good “cultural fit,” so pick a writing style that’s both natural and meshes with the company’s culture.
8. Sprinkle in key words and phrases from the job description
When companies hire remote workers, they often get applications from all over the country or even world. Instead of having a human sort through hundreds of cover letters and resumes, companies often employ an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to do the initial read-through
An ATS program looks for key words and phrases before letting your application advance to the next round (or rejecting it). If a job description calls for “Skills in HTML” or “Five years of experience in a management position,” the ATS will scan your cover letter and resume for similar phrases.
By incorporating language from the job description in your cover letter, you’ll be more likely to make it through the ATS scan. If you don’t, your materials could be discarded before they ever get in front of human eyes.
9. Avoid overused buzzwords and cliches
Although sprinkling in key words and phrases is important, don’t clutter your cover letter with overused buzzwords and industry jargon. Certain language has been used so often that it’s basically meaningless.
Some overused phrases include,
- Team player
- Hard worker
- Proven track record
Even though these descriptors might be true, try to come up with unique language so your cover letter doesn’t make your reader’s eyes glaze over. And if certain cliches can’t be avoided, provide an example to prove why it describes you.
10. Show your enthusiasm
Needless to say, an employer isn’t looking for an apathetic or negative employee; they want someone who’s excited to join the team.
So remember to show your enthusiasm for the position and company in your cover letter. Along with talking about why you’re excited about the job, you might also share what you love about working from home.
In this case, the company wants someone who can succeed in a work from home role, so you could briefly touch on why you excel in a remote environment. Don’t go overboard of course, but words like, “thrilled, excited, eager, enthusiastic, and passionate,” could show a reader the positive energy you’d bring to a team.
11. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses
In a perfect world, you would meet all the qualifications listed in a job description. But that’s not always the case.
Even if you don’t meet every piece of criteria, though, it’s still worth applying. Employers often write up a description of their dream candidate, but they don’t necessarily expect to find someone who matches it exactly.
That said, avoid calling attention to your weak areas in your cover letter. There’s no need to say, “Although I don’t have the three years of management experience you’re looking for, I still feel I could do a good job because…”
Don’t shine a spotlight your lack of experience; instead, focus on the strengths you do have. The only exception might be if you want to explain a gap in employment or a bunch of short-term jobs.
Otherwise, use your cover letter to advocate for yourself, not to point out where you fall short.
12. Make sure you don’t have any typos
Not only is a cover letter a chance to share your story and show your personality, but it also demonstrates your writing skills. A bunch of grammar and spelling mistakes could be a red flag to a prospective employer.
You might also ask a friend or family member to look it over; a pair of fresh eyes on a piece of writing you’ve been staring at for hours (or days) can go a long way!
13. Customize your letter to each and every job
As you read above, your cover letter should be addressed to a specific person and include the job and company you’re applying to. Plus, you want to talk about what value you can bring and how you can help contribute to an organization’s mission.
So it follows logically that you should customize your cover letter to each and every job you’re applying for. Do your research on the job and company, and reflect what you learned in your cover letter.
This extra step will show how committed you are to joining the team. Instead of sending off a generic copy to multiple employers, do your best to customize your letter to each job you’re applying for.
Craft a powerful cover letter to send to remote employers
If you’re applying for a remote job, you might be competing with other job seekers from all over the world. Put your best foot forward by crafting a powerful cover letter that highlights your accomplishments and tells your unique story.
If you can inject your personality into your writing, you might even make a personal connection with the hiring manager before you meet via interview.
Now that you know how to write a cover letter that works, head to this guide for 19 tips on crafting an amazing resume.
And once you’ve landed an interview, check out this guide on 13 questions to ask that will impress your interviewer and get you one step closer to landing a work from home job.