The rules that follow don’t only apply to cover letters that are printed out on paper. They hold true for cover letters that are emailed as well. By ignoring formal rules about cover letters, you could immediately lose your chance at a job with one sloppy e-mail.
- Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. Proper spelling and grammar are essential.
- Read and read the job announcement and be sure that you have included all the requested information such as salary, references, etc.
- Address the cover letter to either the hiring manager or the person that the announcement requested you send the cover letter to. If you do not have the name, but have the name of the company, check their website to find the human resources department head.
- Be sure that your e-mail subject contains the word resume and your name to make it easy to recognize.
- Use a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman.
- Remember that details matter. The competition in the job market is fiercer than ever, so even the smallest mistake can make the hiring manager disregard your application.
Additional Cover Letter Writing Tips
- Do not address the letter “To Whom It May Concern.” Even if the job posting says not to call about the job, it can be a good idea to call simply to ask the name of he person in charge of hiring. If you cannot get a name, then address the letter to the title of the person in charge of hiring such as “office manager.”
- Sign a printed out cover letter in blue or black ink so that it is shown to be an original copy.
- Be sure that the cover letter is customized to the organization or company for which it is addressed. Form letters are easy for employers to identify. By customizing the letter you demonstrate a level of serious interest in the organization and its business.
- Choose one or two of your greatest relevant skills or accomplishments to emphasize in the letter. It will show why you are an above average candidate and why the employer should remember you.
- Use the cover letter as a way to persuade an employer to look at your resume. Do not bore them by simply describing your background when they can see it on your resume.
- Use clear, concise, and positive language when writing your cover letter.
- Do not use negative language or ambiguous language that may emphasize your weaknesses or bring your level of confidence into question.
- Writing in an active voice with positive words gives your letter, and your candidacy, a certain level of energy.
- Be sure that the cover letter is written in an organized fashion. If you are talking about similar skills or about your background, keep those topics in the right paragraphs. Use topic sentences to help direct the subjects of individual paragraphs.
- Do not use buzzwords or clichés. Often, job announcements will include terms such as “self-starter” or “team player” but by simply parroting those terms you are not bringing anything new or different than what dozens of other applicants have already said.
Best Cover Letter Sample Ever
I simply cannot say it too much: your cover letter must be tailored specifically for each job you apply for!
Remember: it’s your job to show the Hiring Manager exactly how your qualifications are a good fit for my job and the best way to do that right up front is in the cover letter. We hiring managers love it when you do the work for us!
The absolute best example of this, and the most effective cover letter I’ve ever read, was sent to me by a very bright person wo was applying for a computer programmer opening in my department.
The thing that made this cover letter such an excellent example was the way it took each specific job experience and qualification from the job posting and matched it up with that applicant’s skills and experience. This showed me exactly how this person matched my job and did it up front in a manner that I didn’t have to dig for it. It’s a role model for cover letters and I’ll share it with you now.
This was the first person I called in for an interview, and the person I ended up hiring.
I’ve reproduced a portion of that cover letter below, to illustrate how this approach works. I’ve changed the wording a bit, for the sake of confidentiality.
Dear Hiring Manager,
I read your advertisement for an application developer with great interest, as I believe my skills and experience are an excellent fit for your opening, as I’ve detailed below.
Your requirement: “Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field, and at least five years experience supporting enterprise-level applications.”
My qualifications: I have a BS degree in computer science and eight years experience in developing and supporting enterprise-level financial processing systems in the XYZ corporation.
Your requirement: “Experience with MS Access-based application development using VBA.”
My qualifications: I developed and support three different Access applications used to manage budget transactions in a large (8,000 employee) company, using Visual Basic.
Your requirement: “Develop database-driven Web interfaces for rapid, real-time information sharing.”
My qualifications: I developed an enterprise level website builderplatform to facilitate information exchange in a large non-profit organization.
Your requirement: “Advance skill with UNIX and UNIX scripting languanges.”
My qualifications: I have seven years experience supporting and enhancing a large UNIX-based commercial loan processing application, plus three years experience with UNIX-based accounts receivable billing systems.”
Although this letter was two pages long, which is longer than I recommend a cover letter be, it explained very clearly how this applicant’s experience matched each required qualification in the job posting.
By the time I finished reading it, I was convinced that not only was this the best cover letter I’d ever read, but this person was very likely the best candidate that I would find (which turned out to be true).
As a matter of fact, the cover letter was so complete and well done that I only skimmed the resume before calling this person in for an interview. This is the power of a good cover letter!
It takes some time to write a cover letter such as this and you do have to have the qualifications to back it up, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you are focusing your job search on those positions for which you are an excellent fit (this is how you are focusing your job search, isn’t it?).
Isn’t it worth the extra time to write the best cover letter and be the first person called for an interview? We hiring managers will send cabs for applicants such as this!
Use These Tips When You Write A Cover Letter
When you write a cover letter that is powerful, it highlights your best qualifications and gets your resume read.
While there is no single “best format” for a cover letter, there are some general guidelines about what to do and not to do in your cover letter. Follow these tips, along with the format guidelines and cover letter sample and you’ll write a cover letter that is strong and polished and it will be a cover letter that works.
- Whenever possible, address your letter to a specific person. If a job posting doesn’t include a person’s name, do some research to find out who the correct person is. Try calling the employer (but not if the ad states “no phone calls”), and ask a receptionist for the hiring manager’s name. Keep your letter professional by using “Dear Mr. Smith,” not “Dear Steve.”
- When you write a cover letter, if you are unable to find the Hiring Manager’s name, use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resource Manager” or ‘Dear Recruiter”. Never use “To Whom It May Concern.
- If you’re mailing the cover letter, be sure to sign it by hand – otherwise it looks like you’re mass mailing letters.
- Avoid using the word “I” too much. Restate it as “you” whenever possible.
- Use Times New Roman 12 point font, short paragraphs and bullets.
- Don’t use the worn out “thank you for your consideration” or “Sincerely”. Try something different that makes you stand out and be remembered, such as: “”With my best regards” “enthusiastically yours” or “with kindest personal regards” (best for a thank you note), “good wishes always” “Yours always”.
- Make sure you customize your cover letter to match each job for which you apply. It should specifically highlight the qualifications for that particular job opening and use plenty of keywords relevant to that job. Special Note: if you’re applying for several very similar positions at several companies, you’ll be tempted to create one cover letter and then customize only slightly as needed for each employer. This is okay, but 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.
- Use good quality stationary and a qood quality printer.
- Write a cover letter that is half a page in length – two thirds of a page at most. The purpose of a cover letter is to get the Hiring Manager to read your resume – not to restate your resume. When you’re brief, you demonstrate that you understand the value of the reader’s time.
- Try Highlighting one or two of your most significant accomplishments or abilities. Selecting only one or two can help your chance of being remembered, if the accomplishments are significant.
- Avoid using ready-made phrases such as “self-starter,” “proven leadership skills,” “excellent interpersonal skills,” etc., unless you have specific examples of accomplishments to back them up. Otherwise, you come across as throwing around today’s buzz words with nothing substantial to back them up.
- Never overstate your experience or skills when your write a cover letter. If you aren’t found out in the interview, you certainly will be if you get the job. Even if you don’t have every qualification listed in a job ad, be honest about yourself and highlight your strengths.
- As a Hiring Manager, I appreciate a bit of humor in a cover letter if it’s appropriate. Your resume is a formal document and as a rule should never contain humor, but a cover letter gives you the chance to show a little personality. This can make you stand out among candidates. Just remember to keep your tone friendly and professional when your write a cover letter.
- Avoid gimmicks. I once received a box with two plastic toy teeth, a cover letter and note that said: “I’d give my eye teeth for an interview.” Another Hiring Manager I know received a pair of dice and note that said “roll the dice and give me a chance.” These things look corny and usually don’t work, the one exception being for sales positions. Many Hiring Managers for sales jobs want to see some assertiveness and creativity, but bear in mind that unless your gimmick is truly original, it can backfire.
- When you write a cover letter, write in a conversational style. Don’t use words in your cover letter than you wouldn’t use in everyday conversation.
- Finally, have someone else you trust read your cover letter for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. You can read your own letter ten times and not spot an obvious error that someone else sees immediately. Don’t let that someone else be the Hiring Manager.
Good Cover Letters are as Important as Your Resume
As a hiring manager, I love good cover letters. They can be just as important as your resume, because they can convince me to read your resume.
If you’re going to spend many hours writing and polishing your resume, you should not shortchange the letter that will accompany it. Otherwise, your carefully constructed resume may never get read.
Good cover letters will:
- Express your interest in the company and position
- Highlight the most important information from your resume (by most important, I mean most important for that specific job)
- Give me a first impression of you.
- Tell me if you’re qualified before I even read your resume
With no letter, I have to read your resume to see if you’re qualified. If I don’t see it in the first few paragraphs, I’ll go on to another one, since I will probably be reviewing dozens and dozens of resumes for a particular job opening.
Remember: the purpose of a resume letter is to get your resume read. As a Hiring Manager, I’ve learned that the best letters are also usually the best resumes.
In today’s very competitive job market, most savvy applicants are going to have a pretty good resume that emphasizes accomplishments and contains the right qualifications and experience. Unfortunately, many of these otherwise savvy job applicants will use the same generic letter for each job opening, reasoning that their resume will speak for itself.
The applicants with the greatest chance of having their resume actually read and getting an interview are the ones that:
- Find out the Hiring Manager’s name if at all possible and address the cover letter to that person specifically.
- Study the job description and clearly outline how they are an excellent match for that specific job opening.
- State their experience and qualifications using keywords from the job ad.
NEW! Click here to see a cover letter that actually worked and resulted in an interview.
Deciding which applicants to interview can be a very subjective process. An excellent letter could be just the little bit extra that makes you stand out and gets your resume added to the “call for an interview” stack.