Resumes & Cover Letters

How to Write a Perfect Human Resources Cover Letter (Examples Included)

human-resources-cover-letter
Written by Kate Lopaze

applying for a human resources position can be kinda like having your parent as your teacher—you know you’re not going to get away with much, because they know your game. these professionals see the best and the worst of application packages, and it can be nerve-wracking to join that fray. but you shouldn’t see it as a daunting, close-your-eyes-and-jump kind of thing. rather, you should look at this as an opportunity to step up your game and impress someone who might very well spend his or her days wading through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

first let’s start with the basics of a good cover letter.

necessity #1: a personalized introduction

human resources professionals are used to being the middleman when it comes to job applicants. they’re reading your words, but those words are often intended for someone else’s eyes (the hiring manager, a hiring committee, etc.). but if you’re applying to join an hr department, it’s possible that the person who reads your cover letter first is someone who will have significant input into whether or not you move on to the next level (or, even more importantly, whether you get the all-important offer). either way, don’t treat this person like an anonymous resume-reading robot…personalize the intro as much as you can. whether it’s an email (which can feel more informal) or an honest-to-goodness letter (on nice paper and everything), it’s nice to dispense with blah greetings like “dear sir or madam” whenever possible.

if you have a specific name from the job posting, great—use that. if you don’t have a specific name, you can do a little sleuthing to see if there’s a human resources contact listed on the company’s website. or you can even take the old-fashioned route and call the company on the dl to see who would be receiving your application package.

it’s also important to use the right tone. definitely don’t go too casual. the fact that you’re likely submitting these online, or writing an email, can lead to a false sense of shortcut familiarity. so even if you’re submitting your cover letter and resume digitally, treat the email like a regular letter.

potential obstacle #1

you have a name, but the gender is not clear. this one is sticky—you don’t want to risk alienating someone before you even get to the meat of your cover letter. in this case, better to go a little vaguely formal: dear mr./ms. works. it feels a little clunky, but that’s better than missing the greeting entirely.

potential obstacle #2

 making social assumptions about the reader. “mr.” is pretty straightforward, and will likely be so forever. female salutations can be trickier, because you don’t want to make any assumptions about the reader. “ms.” is your safest option. calling someone “miss” or “mrs.” incorrectly isn’t the end of the world, but the most neutral option is the most professional option. elizabeth chung could be married, single, divorced, older, younger, from mars—it doesn’t matter a bit. “ms. chung” covers all those options neatly.

good salutation examples:

  • dear mr. chung,
  • dear mr./ms. chung,
  • greetings mr. chung,

bad salutation examples:

  • terry, (too short/informal)
  • greetings mr./ms. terry anderson (too formal)
  • hello: (too impersonal)
  • to whom it may concern: (too formal/too impersonal)

you want your cover letter to seem professional, but approachable. the salutation helps set that tone. if you make it seem too much like an impersonal form letter, or the stiff letter of a person who is uncomfortable talking about this job application, you run the risk of not engaging the reader. and i think we all know what happens to application packages that don’t engage the reader. (spoiler alert: they don’t get read.)

necessity #2: your elevator pitch

believe it or not, cover letters have become controversial. personally, i disagree—and it’s a moot debate if a job description specifically asks you for a cover letter anyway. if you’re wavering on whether it’s actually necessary to do one, think of it is an opportunity to give the reader an elevator pitch about yourself. ideally, the reader will also be reviewing your resume, but your cover letter can be the eye contact and handshake that get the conversation started.

potential obstacle

you don’t want to give away the farm, so to speak—the person will be reading your resume, so you don’t want to just summarize the same bullet points. instead, use 1-3 sentences as a narrative line for your resume/qualifications. you also don’t want to leave it too brief, conveying little information about you—otherwise, what’s the point? it’s like saying, “i’m forced to write a cover letter, so here you go.” again, don’t miss an opportunity to talk about how you fit well with the company and the job description.

good example:

as a human resources professional with more than 8 years of experience in benefits management, i was thrilled to hear about your opening for a benefits coordinator. i’ve worked with companies of more than 500 employees (like vandelay industries), and i understand the organizational and communications challenges that can arise along the way. i’ve spent my career working to make those challenges into opportunities for better and more efficient communication throughout the company. i believe my highly developed skills in training and corporate communications would work very in the role of benefits coordinator.

bad examples:

i am applying for a job at vandelay industries. please see my attached resume, and let me know if you have any questions.

basically, make sure that your cover letter has some of your big talking points, but don’t just rehash your resume. take the opportunity to set the narrative.

necessity #3: a strong finish

always have a closing that leaves room for follow-up. yes, the reader knows that they can email you with any questions, but it’s a conversational way to close out the letter and move the reader on to your resume.

good closing example:

i would love to have the opportunity to join your team, and look forward to hearing more about the benefits coordinator position. please let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s any more information i can provide about my experience coordinating benefits.

bad closing example:

please let me know more about this job opening. thanks.

in these examples, one writer reminds the reader that the writer is focused on this job and his or her qualifications for it. the other writer closes with the most generic close-out possible, and could apply to a job opening for a line cook or a podiatrist. you want to make sure you’re aligning yourself with the job in the reader’s mind, and this is your last chance to do so before they read your resume.

 necessity #4: keep it clean

like with your resume, you want your cover letter to be clear and easy to read. that means:

  • a standard font. this is not the time to test out “fun” fonts. pick something clean and basic, like times.
  • no huge blocks of text. in a letter, unbroken paragraphs can look like the ramblings of a manifesto. you want your reader to see a series of separate, elegantly outlined points. short paragraphs, a few at most.
  • short length. a cover letter should never be more than a page, and even a full page is definitely pushing it. brevity is the soul of wit, and the friend of application readers everywhere.

good letter body example:

as a human resources professional with more than 8 years of experience in benefits management, i was thrilled to hear about your opening for a benefits coordinator. i’ve worked with companies of more than 500 employees (like vandelay industries), and i understand the organizational and communications challenges that can arise along the way. i’ve spent my career working to make those challenges into opportunities for better and more efficient communication throughout the company. i believe my highly developed skills in training and corporate communications would work very in the role of benefits coordinator.

i would love to have the opportunity to join your team, and look forward to hearing more about the benefits coordinator position. please let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s any more information i can provide about my experience coordinating benefits.

bad letter body example:

as a human resources professional with more than 8 years of experience in benefits management, i was very thrilled to hear about your opening for a benefits coordinator. i’ve worked with companies of more than 500 employees (like vandelay industries), and i understand the organizational and communications challenges that can arise along the way. i’ve spent my career working to make those challenges into opportunities for better and more efficient communication throughout the company. i believe my skills in training and corporate communications would work very in the role of benefits coordinator. i would love to have the opportunity to join your team, and look forward to hearing more about the benefits coordinator position. please let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s any more information i can provide about my experience coordinating benefits. 

in the bad example, the information is crowded and tough to read. it’s also made even more unreadable by the font. and emojis are great for texting, but they have no place in your application package, sorry. if you want to convey tone, you’ve got to do it the old-fashioned way: through your words.

once you’ve got the body of the letter in shape, all that’s left is the closing. like the salutation, you want to err on the side of formal, but friendly.

good closing examples:

  • best wishes,
  • sincerely,

bad examples:

  • thanks. (brusque tone)
  • fondest wishes, (too flowery)
  • [name—no greeting] (too abrupt)
  • call me, (too informal and oddly personal)

and after that, you’re done! human resources professionals, maybe even more so than any other professionals, can appreciate a well-constructed cover letter. they also see a lot of them, so it’s important to get in, present your information in a clean, engaging way, and get out. you want them to remember you, not the person who sent the wacky/inappropriate/super-formal cover letter.

let’s take a last look at the good example cover letter as a whole:

dear mr. chung,

as a human resources professional with more than 8 years of experience in benefits management, i was thrilled to hear about your opening for a benefits coordinator. i’ve worked with companies of more than 500 employees (like vandelay industries), and i understand the organizational and communications challenges that can arise along the way. i’ve spent my career working to make those challenges into opportunities for better and more efficient communication throughout the company. i believe my highly developed skills in training and corporate communications would work very in the role of benefits coordinator.

i would love to have the opportunity to join your team, and look forward to hearing more about the benefits coordinator position. please let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s any more information i can provide about my experience coordinating benefits.

sincerely,

barbara franklin

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2 Comments

  • […] How to Write a Perfect Human Resources Cover Letter (Examples Included) – If you make it seem too much like an impersonal form letter, or the stiff letter of a person who is uncomfortable talking about this job application, you run the risk of not engaging the reader. … […]

  • […] How to Write a Perfect Human Resources Cover Letter (Examples Included) – First let’s start with the basics of a good cover letter. Human Resources professionals are used to being the middleman when it comes to job applicants. They’re reading your words, but … […]

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