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How to Write a Cover Letter that Stands Out in 2024

Sophia Surrett  |  June 10, 2024

Full-page, ultra-long cover letters are a thing of the past. Instead, here's the best cover letter format for today's job market.

Picture it: You’re applying for jobs on LinkedIn, and there’s a cover letter field. But it’s optional. So, do you take 30 minutes to craft one that will impress? Or, do you get stuck wondering how long your cover letter should be in 2024 or what the best cover letter format is, and let Chat GPT write you a cover letter instead? 

One thing’s for certain: Many companies have dropped their cover letter requirement in recent years. And that’s worth celebrating. But for the companies that still want to see a longer missive, what are the new rules? 

Thankfully, the long cover letter format of the early 2000s has been retired. The 2024 cover letter is a lot shorter, and personality-driven, than its predecessor. Think about it like writing a Facebook post versus a Tweet. The latter’s limited character count inspires us to condense all the most important information, and make sure our words pack a punch. This is exactly how job seekers need to think about their cover letter. 

How long should a cover letter be?

If you’re still working with a cover letter format from years past, it’s time for a trim. Somewhere between 200 to 400 words is the modern sweet spot according to Zety, a resume site. That translates to about half a page long, or 3 to 6 paragraphs. The main things you need to incorporate are: the motivations behind your application, your career objectives, and a spotlight on your career achievements. 63% of respondents in the Resume Lab survey said the most important thing to include is why you want to work for the company — which means you’ll have to do a bit more than just pasting your resume into a Chat GPT cover letter generator. Instead, focus on what attracted you to the job, and why you would be a good fit. 

Always send a cover letter, even when it’s optional.

If the job doesn’t require it, do you still need to send a cover letter in 2024? According to a survey by Resume Lab, 72% of hiring decision-makers still expect to see one attached even if it’s listed as “optional.” Put simply, they want to see who will go the extra mile! And even if they just skim it, the effort you put into writing a cover letter doesn’t go unnoticed.

Plus, if your resume isn’t exactly where you want it to be or you’re still playing with its format, that cover letter could be your saving grace. In the same Resume Lab survey, 83% of hiring managers said that a great cover letter can actually land you an interview even if your resume isn’t up to par. You’re not out of the running yet!

A few basic rules on cover letter presentation: If you’re interviewing in person, bring a few copies with you just in case. It’s always better to be over-prepared, even in this digital age. And if you’re uploading files to a job site, have separate files for your resume and cover letter. Not only do most sites ask for them as separate documents, but having unique attachments will help make sure they stay organized. (That’s good for you, and for your prospective employer!) 

No Double Dipping, Please!

With any resume and cover letter combo, try to limit repetition. In other words, don’t just rehash the achievements listed on your resume in your cover letter. You want them to compliment each other, not parrot! Double-dipping on your accomplishments can actually get your entire application tossed in the trash. Instead, format your cover letter to highlight the skills you used or gained from each of the positions listed on your resume, and highlight relevant skills that don’t fit neatly on your resume. This is where you can sell yourself without making it too much about you, and not enough about how your skills are a perfect fit for the position at hand.

Lastly, before sending out any piece of an application, triple check to make sure there are no grammatical errors. A cover letter is a 200 to 400-word professional love letter, and it needs to be grammatically flawless, as it’s the only first impression you’ll ever get to make… And while we’re on the topic, if you’re going on an application blitz, please please make sure you have the right company name and hiring manager name listed on all correspondence. There’s nothing worse than hitting “send” on the application for your dream job only to realize that you actually referred to the company as their biggest competitor. 


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