On the surface, cover letters seem like a waste of time. But for many employers, cover letters are just as important as resumes – and that makes the ability to write killer cover letters a job search priority.
If you were to ask employers and hiring managers about their pet peeves, it wouldn’t take long for the conversation to come around to the subject of cover letters. Employers expect to receive a cover letter that inspires them to take a closer look at your resume. Yet surprisingly, many job applicants send weak or inappropriate cover letters – if they send a cover letter at all.
Killer cover letters will undoubtedly give you an edge in today’s competitive job markets. And regardless of what you may have heard, you don’t have to be a great writer to create a good cover letter. You just need to follow a few tried and true guidelines that hit the mark with employers.
Feel inspired to throw caution to the wind and come up with a unique structure for your cover letter? Don’t – you’ll only succeed in irritating decision-makers. Instead, stick to the standard cover letter format: (1) Contact information (yours & the employer’s), (2) Date, (3) Salutation, (4) Body, (5) Close and (6) Signature.
Specificity is currency in a cover letter. In other words, the more details you include in your cover letter, the more value it has to employers. Generic phrases like “I am very interested in this position” are out; phrases like “I am writing to express my interest in the Bookkeeper position advertised on the Acme Inc. website” are in. Also, it’s important to accurately identify the hiring manager before you apply. Never, never, never begin a cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern”.
Ideally, your cover letter should introduce, confirm and reinforce the information contained in your resume. When it comes to cover letters, employers are looking for material that is consistent with the work experience and qualifications you describe in the resume. If the cover letter and resume tell two different stories, the odds that you will be invited to an interview will take a nosedive.
Brevity is essential in a great cover letter. Remember: the cover letter is a tease, an invitation for the employer to take a close read of your resume. So the trick is to pique the employer’s interest by succinctly stating why you are a good candidate for the position. One-page cover letters are the norm – in fact, try to limit the main body of your cover letters to no more than three pages.
Most jobseekers don’t realize that employers use cover letters to test their professionalism, communication skills and attention to detail. Maintain a professional tone throughout your cover letter, avoid flowery verbiage, use black ink on white resume paper, and triple-check each cover letter for typos.