A list of “20 Things Every Twentysomething Should Know How To Do” has, among things like “parallel park” and “respond to criticism,” the ability to “write a cover letter” at number 16. This is very interesting, don’t you think?
Here’s their reasoning: “Filling out an application is a pretty simple process but, in all likelihood, the job you really want is going to take more than a list of references and previous employers. Cover letters require some effort, but it can be the difference between “don’t call us, we’ll call you” and “when can you start?””
It’s really simple to see why. A good cover letter is your introduction to the potential employer and is their first impression of you.
So knowing how to write a good cover letter is important:
Do some research on what a good cover letter entails. A good place to start is here on this blog.
Write some sample cover letters and ask friends to critique them. Ask friends who regularly make comments about misspelled words and grammar mistakes — they see those things. Ask friends who have businesses. Ask your older relatives. Then take those marked up samples and see where you can improve.
If you are struggling with this skill, consider investing in a professionally written cover letter for a potentially lucrative job. It is a small investment for a big return. You can use it as a learning experience to improve your writing. Some jobs do not require writing skills once you are hired, but it is a good skill to have anyway.
Even if you are not the one who wrote your own cover letter, the fact that you recognize the importance of a good cover letter shows you value professionalism enough to invest in it.
Cover Letter Basics and the Biggest Mistake to Avoid
For some strange reason there is a great deal written about how to craft the perfect resume, but much less attention is focused on the cover letter. The fact is that quite often it is the cover letter that the convinces the reader to even bother looking at your resume. It can certainly be the difference between a cursory glance and someone actually reading it and considering you for an interview. The worst part is that people quite often make the biggest mistake in cover letter writing almost immediately. They make this mistake by addressing the letter to a “hiring manager”, or worse, “to whom it may concern.” Trust me, if you start your letter like this, it doesn’t concern them. No one likes to be thought of as a non-entity, and that is what you are doing when you address the letter to whomever happens to open the envelope. Take the time and effort to find out the name of the person that is doing the actual hiring. Call the company and ask the secretary if you need to do so. Then address the letter to that person directly. The body of the cover letter follows, and generally there need to be three short paragraphs. In the first one, briefly discuss why you are writing, what job you are applying for and mention where you learned about the job. If you have a mutual contact person, mention it here. Move on to the second paragraph and briefly mention your skills, what you offer the company. Discuss how the skills listed in your resume translate into the job you are seeking. In the third paragraph, thank them for their consideration and let the person know how you will follow up within the next week. Be sure to actually follow up. If the cover letter is mailed, then it needs a handwritten signature. If it is emailed, then a typed signature is fine. Be polite, be concise and be brief.
When creating cover letters, a common mistake is to essentially use the same letter every time.Many applicants change nothing more than the name of the company. This is a bad idea and you can be certain that your generic letter is seen as such by those who read it. The other common mistake is in tone. As a general rule, formal is better. But this is not always the case, though it is a safe fall back position. I’m going to assume you have done your homework and know enough about the job you are seeking to be specific in your cover letter. If you don’t have that information, then get it before you begin writing. You cannot craft a decent cover letter without specifics. The tone of the letter will be dictated on the position you are seeking. The rule is that the more authority the position has then the more formal the cover letter should be and the more specific. You want the letter to be brief but complete. It’s important to highlight your skills in relation to the specific job being offered and to explain why you are perfectly suited to the position. Of course you will address the letter to the person doing the interviewing. If you don’t know who this is, then just call and ask. Address him or her formally throughout your letter. Never shorten someone’s name unless given permission to do so. Save the informal and friendly approach for your friends. When writing a cover letter you want to get your point across as briefly as possible while showing respect to the reader. The tone should always err on the side of formality.
When applying for a job it can be easy to assume that your resume is the most important part of your job application. While your resume is vital and helps to list your skills and experience in order to match you to a job, it isn’t the only thing that you need to include in your application.
When submitting your application for a job, you must include a cover letter in order for your application to be taken seriously. This means that you really need to pay as much attention to your cover letter as you would your resume. Your cover letter needs to be tailored to the job that you are applying for. When you are typing your letter, link it to your resume and expand on what is mentioned and how that could be linked to the job in question. Mention your past experience and how that could help you do the job advertised perfectly and use it as an example of why they should hire you for the position above anyone else. Keep in mind that on most occasions the cover letter is the first impression of your application that a prospective employer will get so you need to make sure that the impression is a good one. This means laying out the letter so it looks fantastic and professional, with no spelling or grammar mistakes in any of the text. Use the letter to promote yourself and tell people why they should hire you but don’t go over the top. Simply tell them what they need to know and why they should employ you and leave it at that. Wrap the letter up with thanking them for their time and inviting them to contact you should they have any further questions.
For the perfect cover letter, check out our services and get back to us.
If you are applying for a job vacancy, then it makes sense that you will want to give yourself the best possible chance of being successful. Whether you are looking for a job because you are unemployed or you simply want to climb up the job ladder, it stands to reason that you will be passionate about getting the job. It is easy to get carried away with concentrating on your resume and making sure this is up to scratch but that isn’t the only direction your concentration and efforts should be pointed. Your resume is very important, however, you also need to bear in mind that often the cover letter that you send is the first impression potential employers will get of you. It is reading this letter that will help them decide whether or not to read your resume. This means that you need to pay careful attention to your cover letter with regards both the content of it and the layout in order to create the right impression. The first thing that you need to include in your letter is your contact information. If they are interested in you and what you have to say, they don’t want to waste time trying to hunt out how to get in touch with you – you need to make this clear and easy to find.
When you are starting your letter always ensure that the salutation includes the name of the person recruiting if you know it as this is bound to get you brownie points. When it comes to the main content of your letter you need to let the person reading it know what the position is that you are applying for and why they should employ you above anyone else applying. Close your cover letter professionally inviting them to contact you if they need any further information and letting them know that you look forward to hearing from them soon.
Cover letters seem to be difficult for people, even resume writers. Why is that? What makes a good cover letter? Cover letters can be fun to write. There really aren’t many ‘rules’ to writing them. You can let your personality shine through. They allow you to positively present your skills, accomplishments, and credentials in a way that will encourage the reader to want to read even more about you (and then move on to the resume). There are lots of things I can get into in more depth (types of resumes, scope, presentation, who your audience is, etc.) but for now, I am just going to touch on the basics. In future posts, I will dissect cover letters more closely. Here are some easy ideas to keep in mind when writing your cover letter:
Make sure your intention is clear. In other words, what is the job you are applying for? Clearly state it. Don’t make the reader guess. You could say something like, “…and this is why my qualifications make me a perfect match for the Sales Management position”.
Highlight your top achievements. You don’t have to rewrite everything you wrote in the resume, just summarize some of your top accomplishments. Wow them with what you have done.
Add your relevant skills or qualifications. Let the reader know what you excel at and what you are capable of. This is a great place to talk about any extra credentials or training you’ve had that relate to the position.
Write toward the position you are applying for. When preparing the cover letter, keep in mind the requirements of the position and add your qualifications that match them.
Explain what it is you like about the company. Remember, you are trying to woo the company, so tell them what you like about them. Is it the reputation, products/services, location? Let them know why you like them.
You are not writing your autobiography. Keep it short, simple and factual. You don’t need to go into why the last job didn’t work out, “…my boss had unrealistic expectations of the staff, so I decided to check out my options…:. Don’t air your dirty laundry or obvious dislike of your most recent employer. Keep it professional.
Double check the entire document for accuracy, errors, and syntax. You don’t want to miss a great opportunity because you wrote, “Dear Hiring Manger”.
Another tip is to save that cover letter, copy and paste it onto a new document, and tweak it for another type of position you may be interested in. I encourage clients to have several “focused” cover letters for different positions they might have in mind. This way, if an opportunity presents itself, you are ready!