Cover letter. There may be no two words that strike greater fear in job hunters than those that describe your written introduction to a prospective employer. That’s because when it comes to applying for jobs, the cover letter you submit with your résumé is just as – if not more – important than the background and experience listed on your résumé. Fear not, faithful job hunter. We’ve compiled some tips to help you make sure your cover letter translates into employment success.
Who are you, and why are you the best candidate for the position? If you haven’t answered these questions by the time you’ve finished your letter, it’s time for a rewrite. Prospective employers want to know what specific qualifications and skills you can bring to the table. Focus on one or two roles and projects that you’ve excelled in.Then provide examples of your work. This is the best way to show that you not only have a good idea what the role you’re applying for entails, but that you’re the perfect person for the position.
It may be tempting to dish about that awesome award you won in college, or describe in vivid detail the way you single-handedly saved your last company from financial ruin. But stop and ask yourself – am I oversharing? One thing that employers are looking for is whether or not you can communicate quickly and efficiently. Remember, employers read hundreds of cover letters during the hiring process. If they can’t figure out who you are and what you bring to the table immediately, it’s almost a guarantee they’ll move on to the next letter in the stack. As a basic rule of thumb, your letter should have two to three paragraphs that focus on three or four of your most pertinent skills. That gives you enough ground to sell yourself without over-selling and losing your audience.
It’s hard to condense your witty, intelligent, yet approachable personality into a couple of short paragraphs. But darn it, you’ve got to try. As we’ve already discussed, employers read so many cover letters, they all start to blur together. If you can find a way to stand out by letting your special “you” qualities shine through, it’s not going to hurt. Also, it’s important to be truthful about your skills and assets. It’s a given that you want to make yourself sound like the most qualified member of the applicant pool. But don’t claim to be something you’re not just because it may be listed as a job requirement. It may help you land the interview or the job, but it will also land you in hot water when your non-existent expertise is needed on the second day of work.
Let’s not kid ourselves – there should never be a time when spellcheck is not your friend. But the best time to buddy up with the Spelling and Grammar tool is before you send off your cover letter to whom it may concern. If you don’t trust your nerves, consider using a proofreading service that can give your letter a final polish. Don’t ever forget that your cover letter is the first impression potential employers get of your skills. Sending a poorly edited and misspelled cover letter is the equivalent of wearing a powder blue suit and alligator boots to an interview – in other words, it may be memorable, but it’s the worst kind of first impression you can make.
Social media has definitely changed the way we communicate, but digital slang hasn’t quite extended into cover letter land. In other words, it’s best to keep to traditional formalities when drafting any kind of written communication to a boss-to-be. If you’re unsure who the letter is going to, skip the opening address all together. If you’re 100% sure you know who you’re contacting, go for the classy and classic, “Dear Mr. Smith.” It reads a whole lot better than, “Hi,” and shows you know what’s up when it comes to corporate communication.
Chances are, if you write an awesome cover letter, you’ll get called for an interview. When this happen, you’ll want to make sure employers know exactly how to get in touch with you. Every cover letter should list the following information at the top of the page:
- Your Name
- Your Address
- Your Phone Number
- Your Email
Indicating your preferred method of communication as you’re wrapping up the letter is also a good idea, especially when framing it in the context of further discussing your awesome qualifications. This ends the letter on a strong note, giving the hiring manager a reason – and a way – to follow up.
The cover letter writing experience doesn’t have to be scary. Copyediting services can help you look your best, and displaying your most marketable skills in a clear and engaging manner will help you land an interview and put cover letter fears behind you for good!