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Continuing our focus on job hunting in January, today I want to talk about cover letters and give you some tips for writing a cover letter.

But first – should you even write a cover letter? Absolutely. Some job postings state that a cover letter is optional, so many applicants skip it. They are missing out. Here are my top three reasons to submit a cover letter with your job application:

First, it could mean that your resume actually gets reviewed.

A survey by CareerBuilder found that hiring managers were 40% more likely to review your resume or overall application if you include a cover letter. If you’re applying for competitive jobs, like in-house positions, that could be a massive help to ensure your application gets reviewed by a human and not just ATS software.

Second, it allows you to explain.

Sometimes you want a hiring manager to know something you don’t typically include in a resume. For example, if you’re relocating for a job, you can use a cover letter to explain your ties to and interest in the new location. If you’re making a career change, it’s a great opportunity to talk about how your skills transfer. If you’re looking for a position in a nonprofit or other organization with a cause, you can use the cover letter to talk about your interest in that organization and its issues. A cover letter is a chance to humanize yourself to the hiring manager and help them feel invested in and excited about you.

Third, it’s another opportunity to sell yourself.

I always say that a resume is a marketing document, not a career history. It should highlight your achievements in addition to providing information about relevant jobs and responsibilities. A cover letter is an even greater opportunity to sell yourself by explaining the value you can offer to the company in this particular role. It’s also a chance to preview some of the accomplishments in your resume and entice the reader to take a look at your resume to learn more.

Now that you’re set on including a cover letter in your application, here are my best tips for writing a cover letter:

Keep it short. While resumes often stretch to two pages, cover letters should end at one.

Focus on the value you can offer the employer. Expressing your desire in the position is great, but always balance that with information illustrating what you bring to the table. The employer is mostly interested in what you can do for them, not how much this position or company can help you reach your goals.

Customize it. Just as your resume should be tailored to specific jobs, so should your cover letter! That doesn’t mean you need to totally rewrite your letter (or resume) for every application. Instead, create one standard cover letter you can use across all applications and as you apply to specific roles, tweak the letter to reference each company, position, and any relevant accomplishments, experience, or interest you have in that role.

Proofread. Many legal roles require significant amounts of writing, and that writing should be persuasive and free of errors. Review your cover letter multiple times for spelling and grammar and always double-check that hiring manager and company names are spelled correctly.

Need some help?

If you’re job hunting this year and think your resume could use a refresh, learn more about my resume and cover letter writing service here and sign up for a free consult call.

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