When it comes to resume cover letters, there is often confusion about how they should be designed. Some people seem to think that a generic, one-size-fits-all cover letter is all they need. Other job-seekers assume that they need to create an entirely new cover letter from scratch for each new application. You should avoid both extremes. You just need to learn how to customize your cover letter. Fortunately, we can show you how to tailor your cover letter for different positions.
*Note – You should be tailoring your resume before working on the cover letter. You could check out our post on how to tailor a resume here.
There are several reasons why you need to tailor your cover letter. The most important reason is very simple: you need to customize it because each company is different. When you apply for a job, you need to know what that firm is seeking in its employees. A generic cover letter just won’t cut it when you’re trying to sell yourself as the best candidate for a position. Different parts of the letter will need to be revised to speak directly to each company’s needs.
So, what not just write a new cover letter from scratch? While that might seem tempting, there is really no need to go to that extreme. The right cover letter requires effort and time. Creating a new one for each new application would be too time-consuming. You can better utilize your time by creating a template cover letter that you can modify as needed.
Of course, you need to have a basic cover letter template before you can tailor it for that next application. Most of your cover letter time should be spent on the creation of that template. Since there are space constraints at issue, you need to ensure that every word is chosen for maximum effect. Your template should include information about:
Stick to the standard four-paragraph cover letter. Mark each sentence that you will need to customize for future versions. Some people use highlighted text for those sections of the template. Others choose to wrap certain text in brackets so that they’re easier to identify later. It’s also helpful to write your template with your perfect dream job in mind. That can help to ensure that you produce the very best template version possible.
When you do have to tailor your cover letter, there are certain elements that you’ll need to alter. Obviously, you will need to change basic information like the employer details and the job you’re seeking. You may also need to tailor details about your experience, skills set, and goals. That can help ensure that you are speaking directly to the prospective employer’s needs. You do that by researching the company, reviewing the job posting, and aligning your letter with that post. The examples below help to show how this is done:
Your template cover letter describes your work with ABC Corp as, “Led a 30-person team in reorganizing the department sales pipeline for greater efficiency. Improved sales closings by 32% in the first month. My initiative also led to a 12% reduction in absenteeism, and a 22% increase in corporate profits.” For another sales job, that description might be perfect. But what if you’re applying for a management position that doesn’t involves sales?
In that case, you could tailor your cover letter to focus on your management skills in a more direct way. For example: “Five years as Sales Manager for ABC Corp, overseeing a 30-person team. Created innovative efficiency and process channels that increased productivity by 32% and profits by 22%. That innovation also reduced absenteeism by 12%, beginning in the first month.”
Skills are every bit as important as experience. You should modify skill set descriptions to ensure that you’re giving the prospective employer the right impression. The key is to align your stated skills with those mentioned in the job posting. Imagine that your skills include various computer certifications, public speaking, and sales. Now imagine that you’re applying for a management position where employee training is a core responsibility.
You can modify your skill details to conform to those job requirements. “Well-versed in technical presentations, persuasive communication, and training efforts. Proven ability to translate complex concepts into simpler terms to enhance employee understanding and facilitate company goals.”
As important as your presentation might be, it’s just as important to control the information that you try to convey. As you tailor your letter, never forget that you have control over exactly what information you choose to include. If a detail seems to be irrelevant, then it probably is. If you look at your cover letter and feel like it’s missing critical information, add it. Your template is just that: a guide and foundation to make your customized cover letters easier to create.
Finally, be attentive to your tone. Casual environments may require you to be less formal with the words you choose. More formal environments may require a more traditional approach. Focus on matching each cover letter to the company you’re trying to join to ensure the best results. Above all else, never be afraid to modify language that doesn’t quite capture the message you’re trying to convey. With practice, you’ll find it’s easier than you think to tailor your cover letter for any prospective job.