How To Write a Multi-Purpose Generic Cover Letter

A Black female recruiting officer shaking hands with a candidate after an interview

Overview

Being Unique With a Generic Cover Letter—How To Do It

On your exasperating jobseeking journey, writing a cover letter from scratch every time you apply for a job is not exactly something you’d look forward to. Could a generic cover letter spell the end of your troubles? Maybe.

A generic document is convenient to fall back on when you’re hopping between platforms and applying for dozens of different jobs. Why? 

Because composing cover letters a dozen times over becomes an unbearably tedious grindfest. You’ll become nauseous just thinking about writing yet another cover letter.

Luckily, a customizable generic cover letter provides an easier alternative.

In this article, Lensa explains:

  • What a cover letter is and why you need it
  • How to write a generic cover letter for multiple jobs
  • How not to write a cover letter
  • What the dangers of relying solely on a general cover letter are
  • How to personalize your document
  • What mistakes you should avoid

Why Do You Even Need a Cover Letter in Today’s Job Market?

Whatever you might have read online, you still need to turn in a cover letter when applying for most jobs. The value of a cover letter has diminished somewhat in recent years, but it is still an important document because it:

  • Introduces you to potential employers
  • Emphasizes your skills and achievements
  • Demonstrates why you think you’d be the perfect fit for the job

A compelling cover letter complements your resume by clearing up any confusing bits and elaborating on the parts that are pertinent to the role. It allows you to present your competencies and qualifications from your angle, while a resume lists them as they are.

Even if a job ad states that a cover letter is optional, don’t be fooled—candidates who submit them have an advantage over those who don’t. If a recruiter notices that you’ve put in that extra effort, they may invite you for an interview. A cover letter might not land you a job, but it’ll certainly improve your odds!

What’s the Purpose of a Generic Cover Letter?

While a fully customized cover letter should be your end goal, outlining universal cover letter elements is a good starting point. 

Segments like introduction and conclusion can be written once and (with only tiny modifications) used regardless of job specifications. This way, you’ll end up with a generic cover letter sample that you can later adjust to suit any particular role.

This kind of general cover letter isn’t tailored to any specific position. It contains only the most essential information that doesn’t (usually) change, making it a good outline for all future cover letters. The beauty of a generic cover letter lies in its simplicity—it contains only the bare bones, allowing you to fill in the details according to the specific requirements of every job you apply for. 

Whether it’s for a senior or an entry-level position, having a generic cover letter is practical as it will save you quite some time on manually writing and formatting a new one for each separate application.

Is It Risky To Rely Only on a Generalized Cover Letter?

Yes, it is. While an all-purpose cover letter is handy to have, using it improperly will bring more harm than good. Improperly, in this case, means without customizing it. 

When applying for a job, in most cases, you have to get past an applicant tracking system (ATS) first. 

Each role requires particular qualifications, and an ATS is programmed to search for those specific skills in your application. Turning in a general-purpose cover letter with random skills listed is a sure way to draw the ire of the ATS bots (and no one wants to make robots angry). You will be disqualified from the race before you know it.

And, assuming you somehow, by sheer luck, manage to cram enough skills into your document to get it approved by an ATS (this is very hypothetical, don’t do keyword-stuffing), and get it in front of a hiring manager—they won’t be pleased. 

A copy-pasted cover letter is nothing more than a blank face in the crowd—and recruiters have seen dozens of those. They will quickly catch on to the fact that you didn’t write the cover letter for their company specifically. And if you don’t make them feel special, it’s unlikely that they’ll pick you for an interview.

A generic cover letter is relatively easy to spot because it doesn’t:

  • Include a company name
  • Have a list of specific role-related skills
  • Address specific questions raised in the job description

These elements (or lack thereof) are all a dead giveaway. 

So, can you use a generic cover letter? Yes—to a point. As long as you customize it to fit a job description, you won’t make it obvious that this one company is just another face in the crowd for you.

How Do You Make Both the Bots and the Humans Happy With a General-Purpose Cover Letter?

Getting past the first barrier, an ATS, mostly revolves around keywords. That’s why you need to focus on the skills, experience, and knowledge that are mentioned in the job description. This is an ATS-friendly way to get your cover letter noticed. 

Still, mentioning all relevant keywords will be useless if an ATS can’t read them. An ATS can only read plain text. 

What mistakes should you stay clear of? If you want to get past the ATS bots and get noticed by recruiters, you should avoid certain elements that reduce readability:

  • Text boxes
  • Colored text
  • Weird fonts that can’t be converted to plain text
  • Pie-charts
  • Graphs

A human will need more than just keywords. 

Include them in a logical manner by linking them to your previous experience. Explain some of the creative ways you have used these skills in a prior position. Entice them with your plan to add value to their company with those skills.

You may also include skills you haven’t mentioned in your resume. The more information you provide to a company, the better they can get to know you. This is particularly important if your skills aren’t an exact match. In this case, your transferable skills need to look even more appealing.

Also, don’t focus on delineating particular soft skills—mention them as something that complements your other abilities. Describe some notable achievements, and give the recruiters a taste of your work style. 

In short, make the company see that your way of performing in the role is unique and valuable.

A young woman with curly hair in a business suit writing on her laptop while her colleague watches on

Source: Vlada Karpovich

Wondering What Not To Do? Here’s a Generic Cover Letter Example That’s All Kinds of Wrong

Below is a generic cover letter sample that’s been personalized (in an impersonal way):

1/20/2022

John Doe,

101 Job Hunting Boulevard,

New York City, NY

XXX-XXX-XXXX

johndoe123@gmail.com

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to communicate my heartfelt interest in the position that has recently become available in your company. Having read your advertisement online, I feel that I possess the necessary competencies and abilities to perform in the role successfully. My previous experiences have taught me the value of teamwork, a strong work ethic, as well as the ability to work under pressure in order to meet strict deadlines. As a company that values top-performing individuals, I believe that I would be a great asset to your team.

I am confident that my prior expertise and acquired skills can be easily suited to your current business needs, and I am willing to perform to the highest standards of excellence. In addition, I am determined to improve myself under your guidance, obtain new skills, and ultimately contribute in every aspect to your company’s success.

If you should find this appealing and convincing, I look forward to discussing any possibility of future cooperation. Thank you in advance for your consideration,

Kind regards,

John Doe

This is as basic as it gets. It says nothing. It emphasizes nothing. And it shows exactly 0% of your personality. 

And unless you are really in a hurry, your cover letter should never look like this. 

There are no bullet lists, no room for skills, no text in bold. This will end up in a trash bin. 

So, what should you do?

How Should You Write a General Cover Letter for Any Job?

Your cover letter will be the first point of contact with a company, so it needs to be professional. Just like your resume, the cover letter has to be clear, concise, and to the point. It should be easily scannable both by human recruiters and applicant tracking systems.

It should also pander to the company’s ego (in a non-literal way), but not too much. You don’t want to suck up (before you actually start working there).

Before you begin writing a general cover letter, you should first get acquainted with its form and structure. 

A regular cover letter is commonly divided into six distinct sections. Some can and some can’t be templated:

TemplatableNot templatable
HeadingOpening paragraph
IntroductionMain paragraph
Concluding statement and signatureClosing paragraph

How To Add a Generic Cover Letter Header You Can Use Again

A header is easy to template, and you should have no problems using a generic version in multiple cover letters. After all, it’s highly doubtful that your personal details and contact information will change that often (though if your email address is awkward at best and terrifying at worst, do change it).

The table below shows you what details to include and how you should include them in your generic cover letter template:

Header InformationExample
Date
First and last name
Home address (optional)
Telephone number
Email address
20/1/2022
John Doe,
101 Job Hunting Boulevard,
New York City, NYXXX-XXX-XXXX
johndoe123@gmail.com

Here’s what you should watch out for:

  • Keep your contact information in line with your resume
  • Don’t forget to change the date
  • Always use your personal email address

How To Make an Entrance the Right Way

To start your generic cover letter off the right way, write a short formal introductory phrase. Most recruiters won’t read your letter word-for-word. They’ll just scan it with a quick glance—so it’s important that your first sentence makes an impact.

You can use any of the following conventional introductions no matter the company you’re applying with:

Another subtle detail you need to keep in mind is—the comma. It should follow the salutation in all cases in American English. 

Since you’re writing a generic cover letter, be careful not to address it to any individual or company in particular.

Also, avoid substandard and informal expressions, such as:

  • Hello
  • Hiya
  • Hi
  • Greetings

How To Write an Intriguing Opening Paragraph

Your opening paragraph has to be catchy, or else the reader might just skim past it. It has to have a hook that you will use to reel them in, and this hook can be almost anything that’s sufficiently intriguing and related to the position you want to get. 

To assure a recruiter that you’re not mass applying, you should always write the company’s full name and title of the role you’re after—this will make your application seem more genuine and professional.

Aside from these two details, even a generic cover letter introduction paragraph has the potential to grab—if not hold—a recruiter’s attention with general statements about your determination and eagerness to join their business:

  • Having read about [company name] online, I am enthusiastic at the prospect of potential cooperation
  • Your recent job listing has captured my interest, and I think I possess the qualities to perform admirably in the role of [role title] that has recently opened in [company name]
  • I was very excited upon reading your job ad and hearing of the opening for the position of [role title] in [company name]
A hiring manager sitting in an office and writing in a notebook in front of her laptop

Source: Anna Tarazevich

How To Show You’re the Right Person for the Job

After you have written the introductory part, you can start describing yourself—and the qualities that would make you ideal for the role—in greater depth. You need to adapt your skills to suit the job ad as closely as possible. 

No role is exactly the same, and a keen-sighted recruiter will quickly spot a mass-mailed cover letter that doesn’t reflect what they’re looking for.

While it is impossible to get noticed with a completely generic text, there are some elements that can remain the same across multiple applications.

First, you should emphasize all the factors that make you stand out without reference to any hard skills and job credentials. For example, state your education degree and how it has helped you in your career, as well as what general skills you’ve acquired along the way.

Soft skills, in particular, can be easily molded to suit any role. That’s why you should elaborate on the following:

  • Motivation—Explain how passionate you are about maintaining top work performance 
  • Teamwork—Briefly mention that you are an excellent team player who can easily cooperate with fellow co-workers
  • Time management—State your capacity to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines
  • Critical thinking—Say that you’re quick to identify possible problems and spot minute details
  • Communication—Write a short bit about your interpersonal skills and ability to objectively analyze feedback on your work

Regardless of the company you’re applying to, you can use these elements as a building block that you can later supplement with something more specific.

How To Wrap It Up

The closing paragraph is your chance to summarize some crucial points in your cover letter, such as:

  1. What value you can bring to your potential employer
  2. How eager you are to pursue further communication with the company

You should also use it to restate any other important detail that will end the cover letter on a positive note. After that, thank the recruiters in advance and sign off.

A Sikh man looking for a job online as his wife watches on

Source: Ketut Subiyanto

How To End Your Cover Letter on the Right Note

To finish your cover letter, all you need is a conventional closing sentence along with your signature. As with the introduction, you should be formal and polite. Informal goodbyes are a big no-no.

Here’s a table showing you what conventional phrases you could use:

Use:Don’t use:
Thank you for your time,Bye
Kind regards,See ya
Best regards,All the best
Respectfully,With love
Sincerely,Talk to you soon
A woman in a wheelchair opening her laptop at a table in a cafe

Source: Marcus Aurelius

Looking for a Job Shouldn’t Be a Job

You could personalize your cover letter to perfection, and it still couldn’t guarantee you that job you’ve dreamed of. The hiring situation is alarming —as the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics points out, the time an average American stays unemployed in-between jobs is almost 29 weeks. Statistics may show that the current unemployment rate is significantly lower, but it seems that job hunting has—for many people—become a job itself.

A recent survey has uncovered that one fifth of unemployed people applied for at least 30 jobs in the previous year. Still, this accounts for only 30% of people who were actively seeking a job. The actual number of people passively looking for a job was much higher.

So how much does a cover letter weigh in such dire circumstances? Well, it’s certainly not obsolete, as more than half of employers still prefer that a candidate send it along with the traditional resume. In comparison, less than a fourth of applicants consider a cover letter relevant, so it might be something that tilts the scales in your favor.

To tilt the scales even more to your advantage, try using Lensa!

Lensa allows you to define your career on your own terms. It teaches you how to make more informed decisions about your employment based on your desired salary range, location, and vocational preference.

By signing up for Lensa, you will enjoy the following:

  1. A chance to play the Workstyle Game that will show you your work preferences
  2. Ability to target specific jobs based on your preferences, skill set, and job credentials
  3. SMS and email notifications about matching job openings
  4. Option to filter remote job positions
A hiring manager and a candidate shaking hands after an interview

Source: fauxels

How To Sign Up for Lensa

The registration process for Lensa is simple. All you need to do is follow these straightforward steps:

  1. Go to the Lensa website
  2. State the specifics about your desired role and location and press Search
  3. Write your email address
  4. Select the Submit option

Immediately upon signing up, you can kick off your job hunt. You may also play the Workstyle Game beforehand. To get the most out of your Lensa experience, you can optionally:

  • Enter your preferred salary range
  • Add your cell phone number to receive SMS alerts for new job openings
  • Provide information about your work experience, education, and job credentials
  • Upload your resume

When you finalize your account, you will begin receiving job recommendations based on the details you provided.

Featured image source: RODNAE Productions

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