If you’ve spent any time applying for jobs online, you’ve probably noticed how many job portals list a cover letter as “optional.” It might be tempting to think of a cover letter as an antiquated thing that recruiters and hiring managers don’t care about, but nothing could be further from the truth. Whenever you’re applying for a new position, a cover letter can prove as essential as your resume, portfolio, and other materials.
Here are some reasons why a cover letter is truly never optional:
- They make you unique: A well-crafted cover letter can be a powerful differentiator in a competitive tech job market, allowing you to define your own story.
- It offers more space to break down your skills: Think of a cover letter as yet another tool for showing off your unique skills and passions, as well as why you’re a fit for the offered role.
- It shows you care about the job: A tailored, targeted cover letter announces you did your research into the position.
Cover Letters Boost Your Resume
While resumes are great for listing skills and experience, they often lack the human touch. A good cover letter bridges this gap by allowing you to:
- Tell your story: Share your career journey, highlighting relevant achievements and demonstrating your passion for the field. For example, if you’re coming into tech from another field, the cover letter will allow you to show that story in an effective way… long before you get to an actual job interview.
- Express genuine interest: You need to go beyond generic statements and tailor your cover letter to the specific company and role, mentioning projects or values that resonate with you. What skills does the company want? What are its goals? Your cover letter is the opportunity to show how your skills and experience match its needs.
- Humanize your skills: Quantify your accomplishments with concrete results and explain how your expertise translates to tangible benefits for the company.
How Do You Make a Cover Letter Stand Out?
Here’s a cold fact, though: lots of people write cover letters, and they’re all trying to make them unique. But never fear—you can still stand out by highlighting your specific personality, work ethic, and cultural fit. Here are some additional tips:
Research the company: Visit their website, read news articles, and explore their social media presence to understand their culture and values.
- Decipher the job description: Pay close attention to the required skills and desired attributes, weaving them seamlessly into your narrative.
- Identify the hiring manager: Personalize your salutation with their name if possible, adding a touch of professionalism.
- Start with a bang: Capture attention with a strong opening sentence that highlights your most relevant achievement or interest in the role.
- Connect the dots: Bridge the gap between your experience and the job requirements by showcasing specific examples of how you've achieved similar results in the past.
- Show, don't tell: Quantify your accomplishments with numbers and data to demonstrate the impact of your work.
- Express your passion: Let your enthusiasm for the company and the role shine through in your writing.
- Call to action: Conclude with a clear next step, inviting the hiring manager to contact you for an interview.
Tips for Writing a Great Tech Cover Letter
Here’s what your tech cover letter actually needs:
- Header: This is your introduction. Include your name, contact information, date, and the hiring manager's name and title (if known).
- Opening Paragraph: You’ll need a strong hook. Reference a specific project, achievement, or aspect of the company that excited you about the job, and mention how your skills can help the company achieve its aims.
- Paragraph 2: Quickly sketch your career trajectory, including your mastery of relevant skills and experience. Always use keywords from the job description (such as skills); many companies rely on automated resume scanners that will also look over your cover letter for those keywords.
- Paragraph 3: Dive deeper into specific accomplishments. Quantify your impact whenever possible. Did you automate a process, increase efficiency by X%, or develop a groundbreaking solution? Explain how that can make you valuable for the position.
- Closing Paragraph: Wrap up by reiterating your qualifications and expressing your eagerness to learn more. Don't forget a call to action! Mention your availability for an interview and thank the hiring manager for their time.
In addition, you’ll want to make the following “tech-centric” tweaks:
- Target your language: Tech lingo is acceptable, but don't get carried away with jargon, because this might be read by a recruiter or hiring manager without much tech background. Strike a balance between showcasing your technical expertise and using clear, concise language.
- Always quantify your impact: Numbers are your friends in tech. Highlight metrics that demonstrate the tangible results of your work. For example, if your work with a mobile app increased engagement by 20 percent, you should mention that, especially if you’re applying for a job that involves working with mobile apps.
- Showcase your problem-solving skills: Tech is all about tackling challenges. Use your cover letter to share an instance where you identified a problem, devised a solution, and implemented it successfully.
- Embrace passion: Tech is a field driven by enthusiasm. Don't be afraid to express your excitement about the industry, the company, and the potential impact you could have.
Your cover letter can never be too excellent. Here are some additional tips:
- Keep it streamlined: Aim for one page, ensuring readability and respecting the hiring manager's time.
- Always proofread: Typos and grammatical errors create a negative impression.
- Use a professional format: Stick to a clear font, consistent spacing, and appropriate margins.
- Optimize for online applications: Save your document in a format compatible with applicant tracking systems.
Your cover letter and resume are a dynamic duo: your resume lays the foundation with facts and figures, while your cover letter breathes life into those facts, telling a compelling story that makes you stand out. In today's competitive tech landscape, neglecting either element can significantly hinder your job search. So, embrace the power of the cover letter to boost your job chances.