A Guide to Customizing Your Cover Letter

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

There is stiff competition in the labor market. A great job isn’t going to just fall into your lap—you need to make sure you stand out and get noticed. One simple way to achieve that is to create a cover letter tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. Doing this shows the hiring manager that you did your research and pay attention to details. It can also indicate that you have a solid work ethic and possess excellent writing and communication skills. 

In addition, it puts you ahead of all the applicants who turned in a generic cover letter and those who didn’t even think to include one. Actually, submitting a cover letter based on a ubiquitous template is likely to cost you points, even if your qualifications are superb. Skills aren’t everything—hiring managers care about your personality and attitude as well, and a lazy cover letter signals that you’re likely not the right person for the job.

This is not to say you can’t use a template. You can, but you need to make changes to each individual letter so that it speaks directly to that particular hiring manager and their company. Basically, you can use a template if you change it enough so that the recruiter gets the impression you wrote it all from scratch. There are ways to customize your cover letter for every job. Follow the tips below, and if you feel you need additional help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts.

Include names

One of the first things you will incorporate into your cover letter is the name of the person conducting the search for suitable candidates—the hiring manager. You will want to include their name and address at the top and then use their name again in your greeting. This demonstrates that you cared enough to find it out. When you address them, make sure you spell their name correctly, paying extra attention if it’s an uncommon or unusually spelled name. A misspelled name shows carelessness and may result in your cover letter and resume being tossed out immediately.

It isn’t always easy to find out a hiring manager’s name. You should first look at the job post to see if their name is mentioned. If so, you are lucky—it makes your work easier. In this case, however, the cost of not addressing the hiring manager by name is much greater since the information is right in front of you, and most of the other candidates will likely use the person’s name.

What if no names are mentioned? You have several options.

  • Search the company’s website. It will often have information about the job posting and may contain the name you need. You can also look at the employee page for the name of the hiring manager or department head.
  • Google it. You have the world at your fingertips. Very often, googling the company name and “hiring manager” or “department head” will result in a specific name.
  • Do a little detective work on LinkedIn. You might stumble across the hiring manager by checking out employees’ LinkedIn profiles.
  • Use your networking skills. If you have talked with others at the company or people who know about it, you may be able to find out the hiring manager’s name. Simply reach out and connect.
  • Call or email the company. Contact human resources, tell them what job you’re applying for, and ask who the hiring manager is. Most employees will be happy to help you out, especially if you are cordial and polite. After all, your tenacious search for the hiring manager’s name indicates a level of drive and ambition that employers love to see.

What do you do if you can’t find a name after exhausting these options? At this point, you have done your homework. You can feel secure using “Dear Hiring Manager” since it’s not like anyone else will be able to address the recruiter by name, either. Don’t use “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” These greetings are dated, and hiring managers don’t like to see them.

Voice your enthusiasm

You want to show the hiring manager that you did your research and know about the job, the company, and its culture and that you are excited about being part of its future. Peruse the corporate website, read articles about the company, and find out what your prospective colleagues are working on. When you do these things, it shows the hiring manager that you’re already “on board” and enthusiastic about the company’s vision and its direction. It’s also easier for the recruiter to imagine you as part of the team when you succinctly describe how you would fit in perfectly with the culture.

When you do the research mentioned above, you will also learn to “speak their language,” and the hiring manager will be interested in hearing more from you. It is always a good idea to demonstrate that you are aware of the company’s new products, its business partners, and its staff. Any investigation of these elements could get you closer to an interview.

It might also help to do some research into the current trends in your field. Show the recruiter that you are on top of all things new and exciting. Even if you haven’t worked on projects that relate to these trends, it will attest to your being a go-getter, and companies want team members who have drive and passion. This will also indicate that you’re willing to continuously learn and improve your skills, making you an employee who can consistently add value to the company.

In addition, if you can find out about your potential employer’s community involvement or charitable work, do it. Some of its values may align with yours, and mentioning this can have a positive impact on the perception of your character. If you have any affinity for its values or mission, let it be known as this can be an important way to highlight your passion for the company. Maybe you have experience in organizing charity walks or volunteering in the community. Share this so it’s clear how excited you’d be to support the company’s efforts in this area.

Show how you will benefit the company

Go ahead and brag a little. Not in an arrogant way, of course, but you are marketing yourself here. Let the hiring manager know how you will use your skills and experience to help the company forge ahead. Explain how you are different from (and better than) other candidates. Include any skills, experience, and interests that will directly benefit the company.

Remember the requirements that were laid out in the job advertisement? Make sure your cover letter clearly communicates that you are a match. Even if you don’t have experience in a certain area, include anything that might relate. List all job experiences, internships, volunteer work, and interests you have that align with the company. Even skills acquired through your hobbies can work if they’re relevant.

When writing your cover letter, keep in mind that a company may be using an applicant tracking system (ATS). This is a type of program that filters candidates based on the content of their resumes and cover letters. More accurately, it tends to eliminate submissions due to the absence of certain words. This may prevent your application from ever being seen by a human.

How do you make sure someone picks up your resume and cover letter? Carefully read and analyze the job post. Include important keywords for both skills and titles so that you produce work that results in a job match. The more keywords, the better. However, make sure you don’t sound like a machine—keep your cover letter personal and tailor it to the job description. Remember that after you “pass”’ the ATS, an individual will be looking for a well-written and sincere cover letter.

The hiring manager will use your cover letter to assess your technical competence, organizational and writing abilities, communication skills, ambition, and personality. They are looking for the perfect match for the job. By writing a customized cover letter, you are already ahead of the competition. Need help crafting a stellar cover letter? Contact our expert team for whatever assistance you require.

Improve Your Resume or CV