The Basics- Who are you and why should we hire you?
Think of your cover letter as the pre-screener for your interview. You should be answering two important questions: “Who are you?” and “Why are you the best candidate for this position?” If your cover letter doesn’t answer these questions, it’s doing you a disservice.
Vibe Tip: When you’re done writing, have someone else proofread your cover letter and ask them these questions. You may be surprised at their answers. This is a great way to find out what information the person reading your cover letter would relay to their team in a sentence or two.
That said, another way to get your application thrown away is to submit only a resume when there is a space for an “optional” cover letter. Hint: it’s not really optional! Uploading a resume shows that you want a job; writing a cover letter shows that you want this job. It goes back to something we feel strongly about at Vibe: company research!
We find that the best way to tie together who you are and why you should be hired is to tell a story. People just respond better to a narrative!
Connecting the dots with storytelling
Your resume tells us what you’ve accomplished, but it doesn’t tell us what makes you tick. Your cover letter should give us more insight into how and why your career has developed the way it has.
A common pitfall that we see is applicants tend to summarize the information on their resume in their cover letter. Instead of summarizing, make your resume make sense by adding details and filling in blanks so that we can see a person instead of just a list. Tell us what’s NOT on your resume, not what is!
Vibe Tip: Think about cause and effect. Tell us how a personal interest you had led you to pursue a certain job experience, where you mastered a skill that you’d be excited to apply to this job.
Another thing to think about: your resume tells us about your past. A cover letter is an opportunity to tell us about your future, and how we fit into that vision!
However you spin your story, working for this company is the happy ending you’ve been looking for, and you believe that you would make them very happy too!
Once you’ve answered the central questions and outlined your story, use the 3 P’s to perfect your cover letter format and stand out!
The 3 P’s
Personalization: making sure every cover letter you write is unique to the job you’re applying for.
Professionalism: making sure your cover letter is formatted and written properly (spell check!).
Personality: making sure your cover letter distinguishes you as an individual and makes your application memorable.
Personalization- Show that you researched the company!
As you apply to jobs that fit your qualifications, every position you apply to will be different. So each cover letter you write should be personalized to fit both the job description and the company. It’s great to have a template cover letter to start with, but be sure to spend plenty of time editing each letter you send out.
You may need to do a significant amount of re-writing to emphasize skills that pertain to the job description over your other skills and experiences. You’ll also need to show a deeper understanding of the company’s goals and mission and how you can help them accomplish those goals.
It’s a good practice to start and end your cover letter with a pretty straightforward answer to why you would be a great fit for the job. This is where you can reference those unique details you found when you researched the company and tie them to you and your experience!
And of course, don’t forget to triple-check that you’re sending the right cover letter to the right company! You’re writing a lot of cover letters, we’ve been there!
Professionalism- Show knowledge of cover letter etiquette.
You may be wondering: how long should a cover letter be? What is the best cover letter format? There’s a lot of nitty gritty details here. At Vibe, we don’t mind a bit of creativity with the formatting, but all hiring managers will expect a few basics from your cover letter. A lack of professionalism can be a red flag, especially if the position requires you to interact with customers or clients! You can reference JB’s cover letter for an example!
- Keep it brief - about 250-400 words. Definitely under a page. It can be tempting to ramble and dive in as you’re making your case, but if a hiring manager is reading tons of applications, they don’t want to be hit with a wall of text. Like your instagram profile, think of it as a reel, not an IGTV!
- Organize it into 3-4 short, digestible paragraphs. There should be a main point to each paragraph and they should build on each other in a logical way that tells your story.
- Include a header that matches the header on your resume exactly (you can copy and paste it!). It should include your name and contact information and use the same font style, color and size.
- Address it to a real person! Find the name of the hiring manager and use the format “Dear _______;” The address line is right at the beginning and is the first sign to us that you did your research and aren’t just sending out a cookie-cutter cover letter. Addressing your letter properly can actually be a bit tricky; Indeed has more details on how to address your cover letter here!
- You’ll probably be attaching your cover letter as a document to your application. Make sure it is named something professional and has your name in it to distinguish it from other applicants. We might be looking at several applications at once to compare candidates, make yourself easy to find and remember!
Example: [Last name Vibe Cover Letter] We always recommend attaching it as a PDF file to make sure the formatting is correct on any device that we open it on.
- Use 11 or 12 point font, 1” margins, and a legible font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri (sorry, we’re really not fans of Comic Sans). This will help keep your length in check too! Trying to cram a ton of words onto one page just makes it harder to read!
- Keep your language on the formal side, while still showing your personality. Consider your cover letter as a writing sample! Which leads us to the last P!
Personality- Show your voice. No need to write like a robot!
We’ve come across so many cover letters that just miss the tone we’re looking for. Some issues we’ve seen: trying to wow us with overly flourished, complicated vocabulary (that’s often used incorrectly!), boring us with completely impersonal dry tone, or writing in 3rd person! 🙅♀️🙅🙅♂️
In our opinion, striking the right tone is the most difficult part of writing a cover letter. It’s a strange piece of writing that is at once expected to be professional and personable.
Something to note: this goes back to the personalization section - different companies can have very different brand voices! You should adjust the tone of your cover letter accordingly. If you are applying to a big corporation with a very serious messaging strategy, it might be best to keep it more professional at the risk of sounding a little bland. If you’re applying for a creative agency, like ours, we prefer a warm and friendly tone that makes us want to continue to get to know you!
Example: these two endings accomplish the same goal, with two very different tones.
“I greatly appreciate the time you’ve taken to review my application and am eager to discuss what I could bring to Vibe’s mission. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me should you have any additional questions.”
“Everything I’ve read about Vibe leads me to believe I’d be a great fit for the team. I would love to chat with you more about what I could bring to the Vibe Tribe; please feel free to reach out at the contact information below!
We recommend getting your content solid first, then playing around with your tone. Just swapping out a few words can make a huge difference. If you can add a bit of your own personality and voice into your cover letter, you’ll definitely have a leg up on a pile of robot cover letters!
Remember: the point of a cover letter is to draw us in and make us want to continue getting to know you. It doesn’t need to be a comprehensive tale of all of your experiences and achievements. Just tell us about yourself, highlight some reasons why we should hire you, and send us good Vibes! Your cover letter is your chance to be memorable. Take advantage!
We know, it’s a lot of effort for a tiny little letter. But, cover letters have the potential to really set you apart from other candidates, placing you as a frontrunner in our minds before we’ve even talked to you! Doesn’t that seem worth the time? We think so. 😉