Not everyone believes you should include a cover letter with every resume.
Some say busy hiring managers just discard a cover letter and jump straight to the resume. Others insist a cover letter is an opportunity to show how the skills on your resume match the job requirements — and build rapport with a prospective employer.
Despite the differing opinions, people in both camps agree on one point: If a prospective employer requests a cover letter, you should provide one.
Consider the following when drafting your next cover letter:
1. Make Your Letter Visually Appealing
Before anyone ever reads your cover letter, they are going scan the document. If your cover letter even looks daunting, you’ve already lost the game.
Long sentences and unbroken blocks of text are turnoffs for readers – especially hiring managers who spend their days slogging through cover letter after boring cover letter. Your sentences should be short. Paragraphs (there should only be three to five) should be separated by a space (no need to indent). Consider using bullet points when listing your qualifications and accomplishments to further break up the text and make your qualifications more scannable.
2. Write an Original
Drafting a generic form letter may seem like a time-saver, but a cover letter template will end up hurting you in the end – when you lose the interview because you failed to be sincere. Write a fresh cover letter for every job opportunity. Closely read the job posting and tailor the letter to match. Use terminology similar to that in the posting and adopt a similar tone (some job postings, for instance, are strictly business, while others are more conversational). Be original… and show will fit in.
3. Keep Your Writing Relevant
A cover letter should not be a mere catalog of your skills and experience – that’s what your resume is. Nor should it be your life story – a recruiter will simply pass. Use a cover letter to show you are the right person for the position by matching your qualifications with the specific requirements listed in the job posting. Use real-life examples, quantify your achievements and be specific to the task at hand.
4. Include the Basics, Everytime
While each cover letter you write should be tailored to the specific job for which you are applying, there is some standard information you should always include:
- Your name
- The position for which you are applying
- How you heard about the position
Also, if you have a contact inside the company (who doesn’t mind vouching for you) mention their name (Joe Smith, a manager with John Doe Company, suggested I pursue this opportunity). And, at the end of your letter, ask for an interview and reiterate how the company can benefit by hiring you.
5. Make It Perfect
Once you write your first draft, set it aside for at least a few minutes. Then go back and reread. Look for opportunities to tighten your language, strengthen the points you make and delete unnecessary words. Then read it again, keeping an eye out for typos, misspellings and grammatical errors (which will kill even the most well written cover letters). Finally, since we are our own worst editors, have someone very good at written communication proofread the letter. Often a fresh set of qualified eyes will catch what you missed.
Consider these cover letter best practices next time you submit an application. Who knows, that cover letter no one seems to agree on just may make the difference between getting an interview… and not.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at CareerBliss!
Image courtesy of Thevirtualcooler.com