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May 09, 2016

How to Write a Cover Letter That Gets You the Job

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5 Cover Letter Tips From the Experts

By Rachel Sprung, Customer Demand Manager at HubSpot

No one seems to agree on cover letters. How much time do you need to spend perfecting them? Do hiring managers even read them? Is it better to just send in your resume and call it a day?

The truth is, you can't really predict on a case-by-case basis -- and you're better safe than sorry. For the most part, having a cover letter will give you an upper hand in ways your resume doesn't. It allows you to show off your writing skills, provide details that you couldn't fit on your resume, demonstrate your passion, and show your willingness to put in as much time and effort as possible.

Here are 5 cover letter tips to consider:

1) Do your research.

In order to craft a truly compelling cover letter, you need to show that you understand what the company does and what their pain points are. And that usually entails doing more than simply reading a job description.

Start by soaking up all the information you can find on the company's website and blog, and then consider drilling down into the LinkedIn and Twitter accounts of executives and employees you could end up working with. That research will help you fine-tune the messaging of your cover letter.

2) Keep it short.

You might have heard that keeping your cover letter to one page is ideal. But according to Forbes tech journalist Seth Porges, you may want to consider keeping it even shorter than a single page.

Less. Is. More. Three paragraphs, tops. Half a page, tops. Skip lengthy exposition and jump right into something juicy.

3) Don't state the obvious.

One trick for helping you keep your cover letter concise: Avoid wasting real estate on information that the hiring manager already knows -- like the position you are applying for.

For example: Never ever, ever use the following phrase: 'My name is ___, and I am applying for the position as ____.' They already know this, and you'll sound inexperienced."

4) Add some personal branding.

Use personal branding elements -- specifically a slogan, a testimonial, and/or a mission statement -- to help make your cover letter more attention-grabbing.

Each of these elements is optional, but it might just be the thing that makes your cover letter stand out from those of other candidates.

Here's a quick run down on what those three elements are, and examples of what they might look like.

  • Slogan: A short summary of the value you'd bring to a company/role (e.g., "Using data to solve the problems of tomorrow.")
  • Testimonial: An excerpt from a letter of recommendation, thank-you message from a customer, or other short quote that highlights your past performance (e.g., "[Your name] was prompt, professional, and responsive throughout the entire process. I can't wait to work with her again the future!")
  • Mission Statement: Similar to a slogan, but focused more on the philosophy behind why you do what you do, and why you want to accomplish what you want to accomplish (e.g., "The key to customer happiness is creating products that people love. My mission is to produce the most lovable products on the planet.")
5) Don't force humor.

Some folks have a knack for seamlessly integrating humor into their writing. If you are one of those people, and you've done your research and know the company/hiring manager would appreciate a little humor, by all means, include it in your cover letter.

However, it's important to keep in mind that -- when poorly executed -- (attempted) humor can often hurt rather than help.

Instead of using humor to grab a reader's attention, write something "direct and dynamic, such as 'Before you read any further, let me draw your attention to two reasons why you might want to hire me.'"


Rachel Sprung, Customer Demand Manager at HubSpot, graduated from Boston University with a dual degree in Public Relations and Business Administration. She is also a member of the Public Relations Society of America in Boston. Rachel frequently writes articles for the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Blog and other marketing publications. Connect with her on Twitter @RSprung.

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