Ah, the cover letter. To write one or not is an often debated topic among career professionals. Some say it’s outdated and no longer relevant. Others believe it’s key to getting interviews.
As for me, I’m Team Cover Letter 99% of the time. I know it’s not the answer you were hoping to hear. But, before you show yourself to the virtual exit, hear me out.
It’s not exactly fun to write a cover letter. I get it. However, there are valid reasons to write one for the majority (not all) remote jobs you apply for. Here’s why.
First Impression Maker
First impressions are important. Chances are, you’ve heard the old phrase, “You don’t get a second chance at a first impression.” Cliche, but true. In fact, even you regularly make snap judgments about people you meet in a matter of seconds, according to the American Psychological Association.
Unfortunately, remote job seekers don’t get a chance to make an in-person impression. Instead, career marketing materials (cover letter, resume, social profiles, LinkedIn, etc.) are used by recruiters and hiring managers to size you up.
Since one-third of recruiters read cover letters first, it’s likely to be your only first impression maker at some point in your remote job search. Let’s make it a good one.
The majority of hiring personnel use cover letters to make hiring decisions. In fact, 83% state a well written cover letter can make up for a bad resume.
Clearly, your interview requests will skyrocket with each cover letter you write. Be sure to use this powerful document whenever you can!
Do not use the same cover letter for every job listing. Always customize your cover letter for the job you are applying for. Bonus points if the cover letter addresses the specific hiring manager.
Written Communication on Display
Pop Quiz: What’s one skill employers universally look for in remote job applicants?
Answer: Written communication ability.
Think about it, the majority of your remote interactions will be in writing. For example, remote workers will:
- Collaborate with coworkers in Slack
- Support customers via chat
- Send status updates and request information in emails
And that’s just a very short list! Sure, you can put “written communication skills” on your remote resume. But, go a step further and demonstrate your ability through a cover letter. It’s the perfect platform put your effective communication on display.
Proofread your cover letter. Then proofread it again. Finally, ask someone else to give it a onceover. A cover letter is only effective if it’s well written and free of glaring grammatical errors.
Fun fact, just 38% of applicants send a cover letter when a job listing asks for one. Obviously, it’s not a great look (or good first impression) when you opt to leave one out. If you can’t follow basic directions during the hiring process, why would an employer believe you’ll follow them once hired?
Don’t be lazy and skip over the cover letter step. Instead, do better than the 62% of job seekers by committing to write a cover letter whenever possible, and especially when required!
Details, Details, Details
Do you read the entire job description before you apply? If not, you’re placing yourself at a disadvantage. For starters, the job listing provides important clues to key skills and abilities to include in your resume and cover letter. But, it’s also a place where employers will slip in a very specific detail to include in your cover letter.
For example, specific directives could be:
- “Please include the word ‘watermelon’ in your subject line.”
- “Use ‘aloha’ to conclude your cover letter.”
It seems weird, I know. However, employers do this to instantly weed out applicants who fail to thoroughly read listings. After all, hiring managers want potential employees who actually want the job – not applicants who mass apply to every remote listing they see.
Remote job searches are all about quality over quantity. Take your time and apply to jobs that you actually want to do (and are qualified for). Do not apply to every remote listing you come across.
Career Narrative Controller
Finally, a cover letter allows you to control your career narrative. Your career narrative is the professional story detailing your past, present, and future. This is especially important when:
- Changing careers
- Explaining employment gaps
Hiring personnel will inevitably have questions when you apply for positions that don’t align with previous roles like, “Do they know which position they’re applying for?” Similarly, when employment gaps are present they’ll wonder, “What were they doing during that time?”
Don’t let recruiters connect the dots themselves. Instead, take control of your career narrative. Your cover letter is the perfect place to answer these questions in your own words. Now, you’ve erased any roadblocks before they became deal breakers.
Cover Letter Fast Facts and Stats
Clearly, your cover letter is a critical part of your remote job search. If you’re still not convinced consider these stats*:
- 26% of all recruiters look at cover letters to make hiring decisions
- 56% of companies give preference to applicants who include a cover letter
- 49% of hiring managers believe cover letters make resumes better
- 83% of the time a cover letter can secure a job interview, especially when your resume isn’t an exact match for a role
- 77% of recruiters prefer applicants who took the time to send a cover letter
- 72% of employers still want to see a cover letter (even when its optional)
Writing Cover Letters with Less Stress
The stats in this post clearly illustrate one thing: Most applicants dread writing cover letters. Remember, just 38% include a cover letter – even when it’s “required.”
As a career coach, I’m here to make your job search simpler and more effective. And, like it or not, an effective job search includes a cover letter.
But, don’t panic! Your cover letter doesn’t have to stress you out. In fact, writing one is as easy as 1-2-3.
First, you need to know what goes into a cover letter. This is called its format. An effective cover letter is made up of five simple parts:
- Contact Information
- Greeting & Introduction
- Body Paragraphs
- Call to Action
- Sign Off
The contact information includes your name, phone number, email address, and location. Even though you’re looking for remote work, make sure to include your city and state. Remember, many companies have location requirements for remote workers.
Additionally, include your LinkedIn Profile and personal website or portfolio, if you have them. If you don’t, I highly recommend setting them up. Both play an important role in building your personal brand.
Greeting & Introduction
Rarely, will you know the name and/or title of the person reading your resume and cover letter. After all, job listings typically ask you to submit your cover letter and resume online through a portal or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). When you don’t know the person’s name, stick with something generic like “Dear Hiring Manager.”
After the greeting comes the introduction paragraph. Open your cover letter with an attention grabbing hook that reels the reader in. With the right opener, your cover letter is likely to be read in full instead of briefly scanned.
The middle of your cover letter includes the body paragraphs. If possible, draw a connection to the company you’re applying to. You can reference an upcoming event, press release, social media posts, or news mentions.
Then, showcase your relevant skills, experience, education and how they will benefit the company’s goals or mission. Remember, keep paragraphs short and use bullet points when possible. Nobody likes to be hit with walls of text!
Call to Action
Any good salesperson will tell you to always ask for the sale. This is known as a “call to action.” As a job seeker, you’re selling your skills and abilities in hopes of getting an interview. So ,use your final paragraph to ask for an interview. It’s not pushy. You’re being proactive!
Do not use passive statements like, “I would welcome the chance to interview with you” or “I hope to hear from you soon…” Actively ask for an interview instead.
You’re in the home stretch now! Lastly, end your cover letter with a professional closing like “Regards,” “Best Regards,” or “Sincerely.” Then simply type in your name to act as your signature. That’s it. Your cover letter is complete.
Remember, do not use a cookie cutter cover letter. A cover letter is only effective when it’s tailored to the company and position you’re applying for. However, this doesn’t mean you have to start a cover letter from scratch every time. Instead, opt for a template that is easily updated for effortless customization.
With a template, all you have to do is pull it up, make a copy, and change relevant sections, sentences, or statements. Once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll be a cover letter pro.
Free Cover Letter Template
Don’t guess at creating an effective cover letter. Use a professional template written by a professional career coach (me!).
So far, you know what the parts of a cover letter are and the importance of using a customizable template every time. Now, what exactly should you say in your cover letter?
Great question. This is what trips most people up. Fortunately, it’s not complicated. All you need to remember are the three Cs:
Remember, your cover letter can help you get an interview even when your resume isn’t an exact fit for the job. To do this, state what you can do for the company. Then, lend credibility to those statements by sharing relevant examples of previous accomplishments.
Always create a connection between yourself and the company. This is important for two reasons: 1. It demonstrates your genuine interest in the company 2. Clearly shows a thoughtful cover letter written specifically for that role.
Finally, write clearly and concisely. There is no need to be clever, cute, or quirky. Your cover letter’s main mission is to demonstrate ability and enthusiasm. Use short sentences and bullet points to highlight your skills and how they’ll benefit the company.
Please, proofread your cover letter. Do not rely on Word or Docs to find mistakes for you. Also, read the job ad closely for any information you need to put into your cover letter. Similarly, look for instructions on how to save and send it (PDF, .docx, email, upload, etc.) Attention to detail is key!
Yes, You Should Include A Cover Letter for Remote Jobs
In the end, my answer is “Yes, you should write a cover letter- even if it’s optional.” Honestly, they aren’t difficult to write. In fact, if you use a template, it will take just a matter of minutes to customize it to a particular job.
Remember, many hiring managers believe cover letters secure interviews when a resume isn’t the best fit. Plus, almost two-thirds of applicants fail to write one even when asked. Writing a cover letter already places you ahead of the majority.
So, open Google Docs right now (yes, right now) and put together your cover letter template. It’s a seriously easy yet effective way to get more interviews. Sign up for my weekly newsletter – Happy Mail – and I’ll send you a free cover letter example template as a thanks.
Ashlee Anderson, CPCC
*Cover letter statistics courtesy of Resume Lab.
P.S. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure statement to learn more.
This post was originally published on Work From Home Happiness