The first impression people have of you can keep them from wanting to know you better or encourage them to seek you out. Your cover letter is that first impression for your resume and its quality will often determine whether or not that resume gets attention. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when you are writing your cover letter:
- Do your homework. Find out who to address the letter to, what style would be appropriate, and the job description. You want this letter to be personalized appropriately, professional in tone, and accurate in specifying what you are applying for. This is NOT the place for a generic “to whom it may concern” form letter that obviously is used on all your applications.
- Identify your strong points and write a rough draft or outline matching those strengths to the job description. Now reduce that to one paragraph.
- Keep it short. All you are doing is a three-paragraph overview to get them interested in looking at your resume. The first paragraph tells them what job you are seeking and how you heard about it (include any mutual contact people). The second is that paragraph you came up with from the previous tip. The third paragraph should be a “thank you for your time” and statement that you will be following up by the end of the next week. Be sure you do the follow up!
- Proofread, edit, and proofread again! This is really important. If you know that you overlook mistakes, get someone to proofread it for you and check your corrections. Focus on being professional, polite, and concise. If your letter is on paper, hand-sign it. For an email, a typed signature is acceptable.
Think you have your perfect cover letter? Pretend you are the person getting that letter with your resume, along with hundreds of other applicants, and read it again. If you feel that you still need help, consider a professionally written cover letter. This is your potential employer’s first impression of you: big things are at stake. Make that first impression a good one so they will want to read your resume, call you in for an interview, and offer you the job!