Ask two people for career advice, and one set of advice will likely be far different from the other. Cover letters (are they a critical element of your job search, or are they just discarded?) are no exception.
Despite all the differing opinions, people in both camps agree on one point: If a prospective employer requests a cover letter, you should provide one.
A very good one.
Consider the following when drafting your next cover letter:
1. Create a Visually Appealing Letter
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 big, 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). To further break up the text and make your qualifications more scan-able, use bullet points when listing your qualifications and accomplishments
2. Delete the Template, 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; specifically, when you lose the interview because you failed the sincerity test.
Write a fresh cover letter for every job opportunity. Closely read the job posting and tailor the letter to match using a similar tone (some job postings, for instance, are strictly business, while others are more conversational). Be original… and show how you will fit in.
3. Be Consistently Relevant
A cover letter should not be a mere catalog of your skills and experience. 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. Where Appropriate and Sincere: Name Drop
In today’s economy, there is no better way to get a job than to be an employee referral — or at least know someone at the company who can serve as a reference for you. When appropriate, be sure to include that name in your letter. For example:
Joe Smith, a manager in the customer service department, suggested I pursue this opportunity.
Knowing you already know an existing employee, and are not afraid to mention them by name, just may mean you get chosen for an interview over another candidate.
5. Make It Perfect
Once you write your first draft, set it aside. 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.
To create the best possible cover letter, consider utilizing these best practices before you submit your next application. Who knows, that cover letter (the one all the experts don’t seem to be able to agree on) just may make the difference between getting an interview… and not.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at CareerBliss!