When you’re ready to start looking for work, it’s essential to spend time crafting cover letters. Many applicants mistakenly believe that cover letters are unnecessary, especially with online applications. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, a solidly written cover letter can help you gain employment faster than your friends who aren’t following these 10 tips for cover letters:
Tip #1: Write Each Cover Letter Specifically for the Job Posting
It can be very tempting to simply have a cover letter template for every job you want. Don’t give in to this temptation! Instead, craft a new cover letter every time you apply for a job. This will ensure your cover letter will sound fresh and appropriate, rather than canned.
Tip #2: Do Not Rely Solely on Spell Check
Spell check can be a helpful tool, but it does not replace careful proofreading. Spell check can’t tell the difference contextually between “where” and “wear” or from “there” and their”. Make sure you read your cover letter out loud, numerous times. Better yet, ask a grammatically gifted friend to give your cover letter the once-over. Nothing says “Next!” like receiving a cover letter with obvious misspellings.
Tip #3: Use the Job Posting to Create the Perfect Cover Letter
There will be hints in the job posting as to what the employer is most interested in knowing. For instance, if the job posting asks for someone “with a track record of customer service”, that’s an indication that he or she wants to know about your customer service experience. Go into a bit of detail in your cover letter. Again, this will show the potential employer you read the job posting, and you have the qualifications for an interview.
Tip #4: Stick With the Facts, But Don’t Brag
Bragging is different than telling the facts. For instance, if you say that you helped increase sales by 25% at your current company, that’s not the same as saying you are “the best salesperson in the company.” Stick with facts, but avoid selling yourself too much. If you come off as a braggart, you’ll risk turning off an employer.
Tip #5: Keep Your Cover Letter Concise
If your cover letter starts to go over one page, ask yourself why. Read it over. Resist the urge to simply change the font to a smaller size. Instead, remove the less important parts. Should you have trouble, ask a friend or trusted loved one to make edits for you. Cover letters are meant to get you interviews, not tell your life story.
Tip #6: Don’t Retell Your Resume
Your cover letter is an introduction, not a recap of your resume. If a possible employer can see everything you say on your cover letter when he or she is reading your resume, your cover letter is not doing the job. Use the cover letter to expand on the resume, but don’t just regurgitate the information.
Tip #7: Don’t Make Threats
Many cover letter writers make the mistake of ending by saying something like: “If I don’t hear from you by this date, I will call you.” Not only is this inappropriate, but it sounds somewhat threatening.
Tip #8: Have an Appropriate Email Address
This actually applies to your resume, too. There is absolutely no reason for you to end your cover by suggesting an employer contact you at BabyCakesXOXO@Whatever. Your email address should be professional-sounding. If you don’t have a professional email address, get a free Gmail account. Use your first and last name, or use initials. While you’re at it, get a LinkedIn account, too, with a professional-looking photo.
Tip #9: Don’t Apologize
If you don’t have all the skills that were requested in the job posting, there’s no need to make an apology. You have what you have. Focus on the positives, not the negatives. The more upbeat you can be in your cover letter, the higher the likelihood that someone will give you a call or send an exploratory email your way.
Tip #10: Add Testimonials
So you’re straight out of college, and you don’t have a lot of experience. You can always add some testimonials from places you interned or well-respected professors. Weave them into the body of your cover letter. They’ll demonstrate that you might just be worth talking to.
Photo by Brandice Schnabel