Cover Letters: Why?
Cover letters are read carefully by those with the power to make, or influence, the hiring decision. The higher up the professional ladder you climb, the more important cover letters and career search letters become. For the candidate who must demonstrate written communication skills in the execution of daily duties (and that’s really any of us), these letters become a valuable medium for demonstrating significant career expertise.
Cover Letters: 25 Tips
Here are 25 tips and tricks that will make sure your cover letters get noticed.
- Use customized stationery with your name, address, and phone number on top. Match your stationery to that of your résumé it shows class and professionalism.
- Customize the cover letter. Address it to a specific individual. Be sure that you have the proper spelling of the person’s name, his or her title, and the company name.
- If you don’t wish to customize each letter and prefer to use a form letter, use the salutation, “Dear Hiring Manager.” (Do not use “Dear Sir.” The hiring manager may be a woman).
- The cover letter is more informal than the résumé and must begin to build rapport. Be enthusiastic, energetic, and motivating.
- The cover letter must introduce you and your value to a potential employer.
- Be sure to date the cover letter.
- An effective cover letter should be easy to read, have larger typeface than the résumé (12-point type is a good size), and be short four to five short paragraphs will usually do the job.
- Keep the cover letter to one page. If you are compelled to use two pages, be sure that your name appears on the second page.
- The first paragraph should ignite interest in your candidacy and spark enthusiasm from the reader. Why is the reader reading this letter? What can you do for him or her?
- The second paragraph must promote your value. What are your skills, abilities, qualifications, and credentials that would meet the reader’s needs and job requirements?
- The third paragraph notes specific accomplishments, achievements, and educational experience that would expressly support the second paragraph. Quantify these accomplishments if possible.
- The fourth paragraph must generate future action. Ask for an interview or tell the reader that you will be calling in a week or so to follow up.
- The fifth paragraph should be a short one, closing the letter and showing appreciation.
- Demonstrate specific problem-solving skills in the letter, supported by specific examples.
- Unless asked to do so, don’t discuss salary in a cover letter.
- If salary history or requirements are asked for, provide a modest window, and mention that it is negotiable (if it is).
- Be sure that the letter has a professional appearance.
- Be sure that there are no spelling, typographical, or grammatical errors.
- Be sure to keep the letter short and to the point. Don’t ramble.
- Do not lie or exaggerate. Everything you say in a cover letter and résumé must be supported in the eventual interview.
- Be careful not to use the pronoun “I” excessively. Tie together what the target company is doing and what their needs might be. To come full circle, explain how you fit into their strategy and can close potential gaps in meeting their objectives.
- Avoid negative and controversial subject matter. The purpose of a cover letter and résumé is to put your best foot forward. This material (job-hopping, prior termination, etc.) can be tactfully addressed in the interview.
- If you are faxing the cover letter and résumé, you do not need to send a fax transmittal form as long as your fax number is included in the heading along with your telephone number.
- To close the letter, use Sincerely, Sincerely yours, Respectfully, or Very truly yours.
- Be sure to sign the letter.
Cover Letters: More Tips
More Cover Letter Tips