How to Write a Better Cover Letter
1. Address your letter to a specific person. Never send a “Dear Sir”, “Dear Hiring Manager”, or “To Whom it May Concern” letter; it makes you look lazy! It only takes a few minutes to call the company to get the correct name & spelling. Shy about calling? Look on their website to find the appropriate person's name.
2. Make sure you meet the qualifications for the job. Don’t apply, hoping you’ll get considered for a different job. It just wastes your time, and theirs.
3. Keep it brief. Your letter should tell which job you’re applying for, why you’d like to work for this particular company/organization, and why you’re the right person for the job. That’s it.
4. Keep it professional. Even if your cover letter is actually an email message, make sure you are using correct business English, punctuation, and spelling.
5. Keep it real. Even though you are writing professionally, make sure you sound like yourself. If you would never say, “As per your request, my resume is enclosed for your consideration”, then don’t write it in your cover letter.
6. Proof-read. Your letter should be perfect. Remember, you are giving the potential employer an impression of your BEST work. If you aren’t “perfect” in the hiring process, why should they expect anything more if they were to hire you?
7. Keep it positive. Check your sentences. If you have written anything that sounds negative, change it. Example: “Even though my grades were low, I have a strong grasp of web design.” Instead, just write something like, “I designed a website for a start-up business and the owner was quite pleased with the functionality and appearance of the site.”
8. No backstabbing! Don't say anything negative about your current (or a former) employer in your cover letter. Actually, never say anything negative about a former employer, period. Remember, your letter should focus on why you are a great candidate for this new job, not why you are anxious to leave your current one.
9. Keep it simple. Use a basic, easy to read font style. No bright colors, emoticons, clip art, etc.
10. Be gracious! Make sure you thank the reader for considering you for the job.
11. Make sure you sign your name. Duh, right? However, I’m surprised how many employers notice it when an applicant fails to sign his or her name. Many employers have commented that applicants look careless when they fail to sign their own cover letters. REMEMBER: The job search process is basically an audition! If you look careless in the interview process, most employers will fear that there's a good chance you might be careless on the job, too. Also, if you are emailing your letter and resume, it’s especially important that you give a "signature" since your email address probably doesn’t actually list your name. If you are sending a traditional letter through the mail, sign your name with black ink, which is considered more professional than other colors.
12. Sound enthusiastic and sincere. Let the reader know that you are sincerely interested in the position. If they think you are less than enthusiastic, they might choose someone else, for fear that you'd "walk" as soon as a better offer came your way. Remember, it's expensive for a company to hire someone. They want to make the best choice they can, and that includes hiring someone who CAN do the job, as well as someone who WANTS to do the job.
13. Mention something specific about their company that is appealing to you. Individualize each cover letter that you send. You never want to have a reader suspect that you simply “cut & pasted” the same cover letter to the last five job listings. That is a huge turn-off!
As you can see, it takes a little time to write an effective cover letter. However, you will see much better success in your job search if you take the time to write a focused letter. If you have thirty minutes to work on your job search, spend that time writing one or two GREAT cover letters, instead of copying & pasting the same letter to six employers so you can "apply" for a bunch of jobs in a hurry. Trust me, it will be worth your time!
To help you get started, take a look at this sample cover letter. You can view the sample cover letter at this link.
Be sure to send me feedback, and contact me if you have any questions.
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