This post continues with my cover letter advice. Though it may seem that I’m going a bit overboard with all this advice about something this simple, I can’t begin to tell you how many really awful cover letters I’ve received over the years.
The vast majority of cover letters I receive are generic and tell me nothing about the applicant. Worse yet, it’s obvious that it’s the same one that’s sent for multiple other job openings. I’ve even received cover letters that actually referred to the wrong job! Obviously, these job applicants haven’t been careful when copying and pasting.
On the other hand, the few truly excellent cover letters I’ve read really make me sit up and take notice. I’ll automatically assume that if the applicant took the care to construct a good cover letter, I should at least give their resume careful consideration. Such is the power of a good cover letter.
I covered a few general tips in my last post and I’ll now go into greater detail with some additional tips.
Use a Specific Person’s Name in the Address
If at all possible, address your cover letter to someone by name. If the job posting didn’t include a specific person’s name (unfortunately, most don’t), then do some research and try to find out who the correct person is. One way is to call the employer (but only if the ad doesn’t state “no phone calls”), and ask a receptionist for the hiring manager’s name. They will frequently give it to you. If you get it, keep your letter professional by using “Dear Mr. Smith,” not “Dear Steve.”
Be Specific With Titles
If you’re unable to find a specific name, then use either “Dear Hiring Manager”, “Dear Human Resource Manager”, or ‘Dear Recruiter”. Never use “To Whom It May Concern”.
Hand Sign Cover Letters You Send by U.S. Mail
Although in today’s world most applications are now submitted online, you’ll occasionally be asked to mail your resume and cover letter. If this is the case and you’re mailing via U.S. Mail, be sure to sign you cover letter by hand – to avoid giving the impression that you’re mass mailing letters.
Use “You” Rather than “I”
Minimize your use of the word “I”. After all, your cover letter should be about what you can contribute to the company, not about yourself. Restate “I” as “you” as much as you can.
Keep the Format Simple
Avoid the use of italics, underlining, bold type, etc. Use a basic Times New Roman 12 point font, short paragraphs and bullets. You want your words to stand out – not your text formatting.
Be Creative With the Closing
Avoid time-worn phrases such as “Thank you for your consideration” or “Sincerely”. Instead, why not use something different that can make you stand out and be remembered? Try closings such as “With my best regards” “Enthusiastically yours” or “With kindest personal regards” (best for a thank you note), “Good wishes always” “Yours always”, etc. There are dozens of non-traditional closings that may just give you that extra one half of one percent advantage.
Customize Your Cover Letter to that Specific Job
If you’ve read my posts for a while, you know this is my number one piece of advice: customize everything in your application for that specific job. And cover letters are no different – they too need to be customized to match the requirements for the exact jobs to which you apply. Your cover letter should specifically highlight your qualifications for that particular job opening and use plenty of keywords relevant to that job. Even if you’re applying for several very similar positions at the same company, you’ll need to customize your cover letter for each one. Don’t give in to the temptation to use the same cover letter just because it’s the same company. If you’re applying for essentially the same type of position every time, it can be okay to create one cover letter and then customize only as needed to match the job posting for each employer. However, BE SURE to remove all references to another company in your cover letter. Of every 100 cover letters I receive, About two or three were obviously written for another company and I usually don’t read any further.
I’ll finish up with cover letters next time by giving a few final tips.