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How to Tailor Your Cover Letter, the Easy Way

Generic cover letters simply do not make the cut. Learn how to tailor your cover letter to each job, quickly and painlessly.

Cover letters are an essential part of the job application process. You’ll need to be prepared to write a unique letter with each job you apply for. If you’ve been on the market for a while, you may have noticed that cover letters take time. So being asked to submit an elegantly written, highly specific, well-researched letter to every outgoing resume can seem like an impossible and impractical chore.

Writing a completely original letter from the ground up can take hours, and most jobseekers can’t afford that kind of time. We suggest starting with a template letter and tailor it to match each job you apply to. Here are a few tips that can help.

Get your template in order first.

There’s no such thing as spending too much time on your template letter. This is the core framework for a message that may reach hundreds of potential employers during your job search, so get this task right. Craft every word of your letter with care. Pull out the stops as you describe what you’re looking for, what you have to offer, and what you’ve accomplished in the past. Keep your letter limited to four paragraphs and make every paragraph perfect. Imagine you’re writing to your dream employer for your dream job. In fact, use your dream employer as the recipient and your dream job as target job title. Put brackets or parentheticals around these details; you’ll be changing them later.

Adjust your job title for each submission.

This is the easy part. For each specific submission, change your ideal title and your ideal employer to reflect the open position in front of you at the moment. After you’ve tailored your letter, your opening sentence should look something like this: “I’d like an opportunity to join [Quality Co.] as your new [Account Services Representative].”

Align your letter with your target role.

Now things become slightly more difficult. In the body of your template letter, in which you describe your background and career ambitions, adjust your wording to match what you know about your employer’s needs, based on their job post. If they want a warm and friendly service provider, that’s what you are. If they want a technical expert, apply that term to yourself – and use the exact term, in case it’s used in a keyword search. If they want an “experienced and highly organized account rep”, they just found one.

Curate your skills.

Do these employers need an expert in Adobe Photoshop or conversational Portuguese? Do they need someone who can manage a database or maintain a server? If the post mentions specific skills that you happen to have, don’t fail to include these skills as you tailor your letter. In order to use your space efficiently, allow less relevant skills to drop off the page.

Curate your experience.

Complete the same task as you describe your achievements and experience. Share the details of your background that are likely to hold the most interest for your specific readers, and skim over the rest.

Mention or omit details as you choose.

Spend at least a few minutes looking over your tailored letter before you send it off, and use these minutes to conduct small tweaks in the details you share and language you use to share them. Your voice and tone should align with what you’ve learned about this employer, their mission, and their workplace culture. For a company that prides itself on being a “fun” place to work, keep your tone lighthearted. If you’re responding to a formal, no-frills post, keep your tone steady and frill-free.

Turn to LiveCareer for sophisticated tools that can help you create a template letter and tailor your words to the needs of your target employer—without spending an entire day on a single application.