For most of us, writing the cover letter is the least anticipated part of the application part. That doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, this is your opportunity to shine and boast about yourself.

Before we jump in, take a sneak peek at our hiring skill guide. We compiled all the ingredients (sugar, spice, and everything nice) to create a guide that will help you stand out as a star candidate.

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What is the purpose of a cover letter?

Your cover letter is often the first thing a hiring manager or recruiter will see when reviewing your job application. In order to be seriously considered you for an interview, a cover letter needs to include key elements of your previous work experience. The idea is to seamlessly tie your skills to the job description.

The reality of the application process is that some recruiters may not read your cover letter. They're scouring and reviewing dozens of job applications every day, so it's your job to craft a cover letter that's interesting, specific to the job, and showcases your professional skills and experiences to the "t."

How cover letters explain career gaps

A cover letter is the best way in explaining employment gaps. Whether you took time to travel, flushed out side projects, switched career paths, or got laid off this is your chance to paint a better picture for the recruiter. When you explain your situation, be sure to incorporate valuable skills you learned during that time.

  • Explain the gaps in your resume
  • Share the skills and learnings you picked up during the time
  • Keep your explanation succinct, concise, and to the point  

The do’s and don’ts of a cover letter

While every cover letter you write is unique to your job application and career experiences, here are some rules you should adhere to when drafting your customized cover letter.

Do’s of writing a cover letter:

  • Address your letter to a named individual
  • Use simple language and uncomplicated sentences
  • Keep your letter under one page
  • Discuss your skills and how they tie to the position
  • Include keywords from the application in the letter
  • Ask someone to peer review your letter

Don’ts of writing a cover letter

  • Don’t exceed more than one page
  • Don't copy and paste your resume onto your letter
  • Don't write a generic letter
  • Don't focus on your current job title or education
  • Don't submit an unedited cover letter

Food for thought

When written correctly, your cover letter can add much more value to your application, even more than your resume. While the process of writing a cover letter can sometimes be grueling, it proves that you don't shy away from putting in the extra work. And more importantly, use your cover letter to show your true self.

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Cover Photo by Coen Pohl