You are starting your new ‘job’ of job searching. I say job because searching for a job sometimes feels like a full time occupation. You found some job postings that you are interested in and want to apply for. You already have an excellent resume, so it is ok just to send your resume unaccompanied by a cover letter right? Wrong! Submitting a cover letter along with your resume is critical. So how do you write a cover letter when searching for a job?
Why Use a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is your first and might be your only opportunity to get the attention of the hiring manager for the position that you are applying for. It is important for your cover letter to grab the hiring manager’s attention and let them know why it is important for them to review your resume and interview you for their open position. Employers receive an overwhelming amount of applications with each open position posted, so it is important that you make your application stand out from the rest. The best way to make your application stand out is to have a dynamic cover letter. So how do you write a dynamic cover letter?
Before You Start Creating the Cover Letter
- Analyze the Job: Read the job description and qualifications carefully and thoroughly. Make sure you are qualified for the position. Do not apply for a position that you are not qualified for. As a recruiter, that is one of my biggest pet peeves!
- Research the Company: Go to the company website and research the company in detail. Read everything on the website to gather information that might be useful for you to mention in your cover letter. Hoovers is a great site to visit along with the company website to research any company.
- Find the Hiring Manager’s Name: If the manager’s name is not listed on the posting, be creative and find it. Search the website or call into the company and ask who is in charge of hiring for the position. You can also try searching on Jigsaw or LinkedIn.
- Revise your Resume: It is important for your resume as well as your cover letter to be tailored to meet the job qualifications listed in the job posting.
Cover Letter Format
Always use the Standard Letter Format to write your cover letter.
- Addressing the Recipient: Try to always write to a specific person (preferably the hiring manager for the open position) instead of “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.
- First Paragraph: The first sentence of the first paragraph should grab the attention of the hiring manager. Don’t start with telling them what your name is or how you found the job posting. That information is useless to a hiring manager. A good example of how to grab attention is to state what the manager is looking for and explain your experience related to that. (Example: You are looking for a Recruiter with 5 years of experience in agency recruiting. I am an agency Recruiter with 10 years of experience). You can also include some company information you found during your company research and relate it to your qualifications in the first paragraph.
- Second and Third Paragraphs: The second and third paragraphs should outline your qualifications in detail by matching them to the job qualifications listed in the job posting.
- Final Paragraph: The final paragraph should include a positive statement to influence the hiring manager to take action. You should also indicate how you will follow up (usually via phone or email) and include your availability for interviews. You should always thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration.
- Closing: You should end with “Sincerely”, sign your name, and then type your name underneath your signature.
Correct Cover Letters
- Proofread: You should always proofread your cover letter. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. I would recommend having someone else proofread your cover letter after you have proofread it before you submit your application. I used to work for a manager that would disqualify any cover letter or resume that had a spelling or grammatical error, so this step is crucial.
- Length: Cover letters should never be more than one page. That is not the case any more for the actual resume however. Detailed resumes are good as long as the content is relevant to the job that you are applying for.
- Tone: The tone of your cover letter should always be professional, informative, confident, and upbeat/positive. Don’t say, “I think I would be a good fit for…”. Instead say, “I am a good fit for…”. You should make every word in your cover letter count.
- Interview Request: You should always request an interview in the final paragraph of your cover letter.
- Paper: If you are submitting a cover letter non-electronically, then you should make sure you use good quality paper that matches your resume paper and envelope.
Incorrect Cover Letters
- Contractions: Do not use contractions. Write out the word ‘do not’ instead of using the word ‘don’t’, etc.
- Duplicate: Make sure that your cover letter doesn’t read like a duplication of your resume. It needs to be original and it should compliment your resume.
- Fonts: Don’t use decorative fonts, flashy colored paper, or unusual formats. Your resume should be professional and will look that way if you use the Standard Letter Format. I suggest using Arial 10 as a font. Make sure your entire cover letter and resume is in the same font type.
- Wording: Don’t overuse adjectives in your cover letter and do not use the word “very”. Don’t start too many sentences with the word “I”.Limit the use of writing in the passive voice. Avoid using clichés and meaningless or wordy expressions. Do not use exclamation points in your cover letter or resume.
- Recycled: Never use the same cover letter for different jobs. You should always take the time to tailor your cover letter and resume to each individual job posting.
- Personal Information: Do not include personal information or interests in your cover letter or resume besides your name, address, and contact information.
- Dishonesty: Never exaggerate or be dishonest about your qualifications, education, etc.
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