Along with a resume, a good cover letter goes a long way in getting an applicant noticed. But far too many job seekers make the same mistakes on their cover letters, and then wonder why they get no call back. Here’s how to avoid that.
1. Check for Impeccable Spelling and Grammar
On a resume, Word can usually catch spelling mistakes and fix them before it hits the hiring desk. But with a cover letter, there’s a lot more room for error. It may seem tiresome to write up a cover letter, sit on it for a few days, and then take it out again to proofread, but remember this: if one line makes the difference between a job and staying unemployed, isn’t it worth spending the time on it?
2. Now’s the Time to Name Drop
Imagine two job applicants: one sends in their resume based on a quick online search, and the other actually knows someone in the company who can vouch for them. Which one is likelier to get hired? If you know anyone at the company with connections who can pass on your name, you stand a much better chance of getting the job over other applicants. Just make sure you ask permission first.
3. Tell A Story
Hiring managers see thousands of cover letters and after a while, they all start to look the same. How, then, do the winning ones stand out? One way is to tell a story with the cover letter so it’s actually interesting to read. You can start by writing something like, “The main reason I’d love to work for Company X is because of something my grandfather told me”, or “A [relative] of mine once said…”
4. Summarize Your Career, But Don’t Repeat Your Resume
The beginning paragraph of the cover letter should recap your qualifications and job history, but only use a few sentences. Your work experience is what (hopefully) sets you apart from other applicants, so talk about it right off the bat so it’s fresh in the hiring manager’s mind. One thing to keep in mind, though, is to be brief: your resume is meant to discuss your work history in detail, and your cover letter is to explain why you should be hired.
5. Target Your Cover Letter Accordingly
If you’re applying for a computer programming job, use that language. And if you’re applying to be a dental hygienist, use the terms in that field. But further than that, a good cover letter also talks to the employer, and doesn’t sound like a blanket letter. Don’t copy and paste the same cover letter for every job application, as hiring managers are savvy enough to differentiate between specific and general cover letters.
The following should never make their way onto cover letters:
Complaints about previous employers or jobs
List what kind of work or tasks are off-limits
Writing about this job is an advancement opportunity
Looking for a more challenging position
Not enough information
Information that exceeds one page
Personal or cultural references