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Cover Letter Confessions: What Employers Want

After spending hours crafting the perfect resume, do you type up a quick cover letter and send it off? Do you have one cover letter template and just change the contact info for each job? If so, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to seize a recruiter’s attention and get them excited about moving on to your resume. Before you send another tired cover letter that fails to invoke curiosity, consider what employers are looking for in your cover letter.

Make It Personal

Whenever possible, address your letter to a person, not just “Hiring Manager” or worse, “To Whom It May Concern.” The company may not provide a contact name in the job ad, so you’ll need to use your investigative skills to find the right person. Try calling the company and asking the receptionist, using Google or searching LinkedIn. If you still can’t find the name of the hiring manager for that position, address your cover letter to the head of the department. When you catch that person’s attention, they’ll be sure it get your resume and cover letter into the right hands.

Whatever you do, be sure to spell the person’s name correctly. Misspelling a name is worse than having no name at all, as it demonstrates you lack attention to detail.

Be a Name Dropper

If someone referred you for the job, the first paragraph of your cover letter is the time to mention it. Having a referral can be one of your greatest advantages when applying for a job because hiring managers feel more confident hiring someone who already has a connection to the company.

Explain how you know the referral source. If you’ve worked or volunteered together in the past, the referral will carry more weight than if you just met at a networking event. Be sure to ask permission before using that person’s name, so they’re not caught off guard when the hiring manager follows up.

Showcase Your Drive

What are your professional objectives? If your experience isn’t directly related to the position you’re applying for, let the reader know why you’re looking to make a change or take your career to the next level. Don’t make it all about you, though. Let the hiring manager know how your experience will serve them.

Demonstrate your knowledge of the company by mentioning something that is not common knowledge. Do research that goes beyond looking at the company website to show you are deeply interested in the company and its achievements.

Demonstrate confidence and ambition, but don’t come off as arrogant. Most hiring decisions are based not on experience alone, but on a combination of technical and soft skills, including personality, fit with company culture, and attitude. Make sure your cover letter shows a positive attitude and desire to be a team player.

Highlight Your Qualifications

Your resume is a list of skills so there is no need to reiterate them in your cover letter. Instead, use the second paragraph of your resume to demonstrate how your skills and experience apply to key requirements listed in the job ad.

Does the job ad mention the employer is looking for someone experienced with fund accounting or a certain software program? Mention how many years you’ve been working with both in your cover letter.

Keep It Concise

Your cover letter should never be more than one page, and no more than four or five paragraphs max. With those size constrictions, you need to make sure that every word is there for a reason. Don’t ramble on, but think of the cover letter as an opportunity to dazzle your future employer in one page.

Ready to try out that new cover letter? Apply here.


Accounting Principals

We're Accounting Principals--a leader in finance and accounting staffing. In fact, since 2010, we've been part of Adecco Group, a Global 500 company and leader in staffing services around the world. But this isn't staffing as usual. We take quite a different approach than most staffing agencies. A people-focused approach. We believe in forming real relationships with both our clients and our candidates. We want to understand the needs on both sides.