Written on September 27, 2022

Writing an Effective Personalized Cover Letter

Writing an Effective Personalized Cover Letter

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a professional document that you submit to prospective employers alongside your resume or CV. It summarizes your professional history, career goals and passionate interest in working for their organization. It also introduces your unique personality, painting an essential, bigger picture than academic records or bulleted resumes otherwise could.

What is the Importance of a Cover Letter?

Cover letters are an opportunity to show off your persuasive writing skills. A highly personalized cover letter indicates that you’ve taken the right steps to learn about a potential employer in your free time. The fact that you have customized your message is a substantial courtesy, which can separate you from a crowd of applicants.

Will employers read yours?

When you’re qualified for the position — or when your hiring manager decides to move your application to the next hiring stage — it’s safe to assume that your cover letter will be reviewed down the line. So don’t waste the opportunity to make a good impression!

Even though 32% of employers say they spend 0-10 seconds reading a cover letter, and 52% spend 10-60 seconds, you should always strive to check the ‘cover letter box.’ 

They may read it, or they may not. That’s their call. On your end, however, it’s rarely optional. Your hiring manager will in fact care about whether you’ve taken the time to thoroughly apply.

ResumeGo surveyed 236 recruiters and hiring managers, in which 87% of respondents said they do look through cover letter submissions for some amount of timeSixty-five percent said that cover letters materially influence their decision to hire.

Quality Control

High-Quality Counts.

If you’re debating between sending a bland cover letter, or worse, a document with various typos, you may want to reconsider.  

ResumeGo’s study, which is mentioned above, also analyzed the success of 7,287 job applications. These submissions followed three formats: no cover letter, a generic cover letter and a highly personalized cover letter. 

Thirty days after their submission, applicants who provided a job-specific message obtained a callback rate of 16.4 percent. Of the callbacks that involved a clear next step, applicants with a tailored cover letter received about 50% more interviews than applicants without.

Meanwhile, the lower callback rates for applicants who lacked a cover letter (10.7%) or submitted a generic one (12.5%) suggest that such letters are only fruitful if they’re thoughtfully personalized.

Yes, Effort is Obvious.

Seventy-eight percent of ResumeGo’s respondents said that it is easy to tell whether a cover letter was tailored to the job description versus a generic template.

Accordingly, Zippia reports that 36% of applicants are rejected because their cover letter is too generic.

Writing a Personalized cover letter: A Method to the Madness

A strong cover letter will be grounded by the fact that you read up about the company, plus have dedicated ample time to inward-thinking. It will also force you to condense large bundles of information about yourself, your work experience and the employer’s mission. 

On a blank document, jot down an answer to the following questions. This will involve doing some general research but overall, it shouldn’t take more than 30-35 minutes.

Question 1: What are the core requirements for this position?

Using your own words summarize them; place them in 5 buckets, at most.
It’s no secret that job descriptions are crazy long! More often than not, they’ll list bullet points in random order, without distinguishing between concepts, skills and sub-skills.

Question 2: What previous experience do you have within these categories? 

Choose 1-3 of your strongest personal examples and accomplishments and trace them to job description’s overarching categories.

Question 3: What is the company’s mission statement?
Question 4: How does their mission align with your values and aspirations, personally and/or professionally?
Question 5: Why now? 

Whether you’re looking for a job after graduation, or a career change, explain the opportunity’s current meaning to you.

Let’s Get Started!

The following suggestions will help you create a personalized cover letter that drives your qualifications home. Drawing from the questions you answered above, and the categories/buckets you interpreted, start writing your cover letter.

1. It All Begins with an Address & Addressee

First thing’s first! Your document should include an address using one of the following formats:

Recipient | Position
⁠Brand / Company Name
⁠Company Address

Jackie Fried | Hiring Manager
⁠361 Lewelin Circle, Englewood, NJ 07631

Company Name, Department
⁠Company Address

Jackfruit, Careers Department
⁠361 Lewelin Circle, Englewood, NJ 07631

Begin your letter with “Dear _____,” and insert your recipient’s name. If you’re not sure who the appropriate contact is, do a bit of investigating:

  • Visit the company’s LinkedIn profile; see who is listed in the recruitment, careers or hiring department.

    ⁠Jackfruit Pro-Tip: If someone’s name is private, and you don’t have access to their profile, copy and paste the anonymous profile’s job criteria (i.e., LinkedIn Member Hiring Manager at Brookfield Asset Management) into a Google search and you’ll easily find their name(s).

  • Oftentimes, company websites list important contacts in their staff section.

  • If the company you’re applying to is small and you’re under the impression that they don’t have a designated hiring manager, address the department head that you’d be working under. (I.e., Head of Communications & Marketing)

    ⁠Even if you get the name wrong, addressing an actual recipient still serves to humanize your letter. It avoids writing “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”

2. State Your Mission

Share that you are excited and state your intentions as an applicant (i.e., the role you’re applying for). Segue into the reasons you’re passionate about the opportunities their company can offer.

Dear Mr. Jackson,

I’m writing to express my enthusiasm and interest in the Junior Machine Learning & Software Engineering role at Meta.

3. Recognize Their Mission

Next, you can briefly show your understanding of their company-wide values and relevance to the field. (If you’d rather discuss this later in your message, that’s definitely an option!) 

I’ve long been an admirer of Facebook and Meta’s mission to transform the future of digital products and services.

4. Make Connections & Trace Your Qualifications

A cover letter is the right place to articulate why your resume concretely aligns with a company’s job requirements. You can also elaborate on any vague points in your resume, especially when that professional experience is really relevant. 

Aim to describe 2-3 of your job-related qualifications—and feel free to separate each piece of information with bullets. Use stories and figures that express the tangible impact you made during a previous job.

  • Technical Knowledge: I am confident that my work experience at Cisco, where I am currently an Engineering Associate of Machine Learning, makes me an ideal candidate for joining your department. As a core ML developer in Cisco’s conversational AI platform for deep-domain voice interfaces and chatbots, I’ve been a hands-on innovator of our Natural Language Processing unit.

  • Pursuit of Innovation: Previously, at Microsoft, I was part of a dedicated team that pioneered an active learning pipeline from the ground up. Together, we enabled Microsoft Teams to interpret new language patterns from user-data. I progressed my leadership skills by advocating that data annotation costs were a major target. I honed in on this metric and we successfully decreased these expenses by 53.5 percent.

    * personalize these tidbits even more with appropriate anecdotes or accomplishments based on your resume!

5.  Show Humanity & Personality

You may have chosen to express your admiration for the company you’re applying to earlier, in your introduction. Either way, give a bit more insight into why you are motivated to apply there.

With all of that said, during the evolution of my career, I have always aspired to be a part of Meta, because of the company’s history as a social connectivity platform. In 2016, I moved across the world to begin my career; the rest of my family lives in my hometown of Sydney, Australia. Your mission speaks deeply to me, not only because I’m a computer scientist and Meta is the pinnacle of creative technology, but since I’ve felt Meta’s capacity to empower an international society first-hand.

A Few Rules of Thumb

  • 1-page, please!
    • According to Zippia, almost 70% of employers prefer cover letters that are half a page or less. Also, keep in mind that we all know what normal margins look like, so don’t be sneaky.

  • Let’s talk about font and type:
    • Peter Yang, the CEO of a resume writing company, suggests using body text that is 10 to 12 points

    • Save the fun fonts for later… Stick with the classics, like Arial, Georgia, Helvetica, Times New Roman, etc. Basically, if it’s not a default email font, save it for your personal usage.

  • No time for typos. 
    • Sixty-one percent of employers will toss out a resume with spelling errors. Expect the same for cover letters; with spell check, there’s little excuse.

  • Don’t be a copycat
    • Resumes and cover letters that copied large amounts of wording from the job posting are 41% more likely to be ignored. Hence, redefining the traits they’re looking for in your own words, by answering this article’s questions above, can go a long way.

  • End the letter with your confidence, gratitude and your signature. 
    For instance:
    • I look forward to speaking with you about how I can put my skills to work for Meta.
      ⁠⁠Jason Fuller

    • Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing back.
      ⁠Jenny Fineman

A Cover Letter is a Prime Opportunity.

Once again, a cover letter is the golden place to set yourself apart from the crowd. It fuses elements of your personality, intellect, accomplishments and ambitions into one whole. 

It’s also perfectly fine to create a series of templates for different sectors, like a version of your cover letter for data science jobs and another version for software engineering, so that you can distill industry-specific skills from your previous work experiences. Don't forget to save all these to your Jackfruit Hub for easy retrieval. Ultimately, having these targeted, interchangeable descriptions of your career milestones will simplify the process of tailoring your application, so that it’s not as daunting. 

By reframing relevant pieces of your personal narrative, it will show how thoroughly you’ve reviewed the company and their job description; it will also show how deeply you’ve considered why you make a good fit.

With time, you’ll see that prior to an interview, your cover letter is the ultimate way to showcase your identity, originality and professional successes to date.