You might have an impressive resume, but if your cover letter isn’t great, you’ll never get that dream job. Read on to find out what to do (and what NOT to do) when writing application letters.
- Always send a cover letter. Even if you think your resume says it all, a well-written cover letter will set you apart from other job applicants. The only exception is email: this is supposed to be short and direct, and a short introductory paragraph should be enough.
- Use a strong opening. Use the first paragraph to state your objective and mention where you heard about the position. This should be tailored to the specific job you are applying for.
- Drop names. Mention the names of any personal contacts you may have at the company. Recruiters will take you more seriously if they assume you were referred by one of their employees or customers.
- Sell yourself. In the second paragraph, you should state your unique selling points and why you would be absolutely perfect for the position. Choose some of your experience and/or education that is specifically related to this job. Your cover letter has to entice the reader to read your resume, so really promote yourself!
- Research before you write. The more you know about the company and their requirements, the better you can tailor your letter. This research will also prove invaluable when you are invited back for an interview. There are countless sources of information, like annual reports, websites, newspaper articles, promotional materials, or people in the industry.
- Never use a generic cover letter. Your letter will get little attention if it looks like a mass mailing, so take the time to tailor your letter to the specific job and company. Find out about the company’s mission, performance and corporate culture, and adapt your letter accordingly.
- Avoid stale salutations. Don’t open your letter with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”. A personalized letter will get a much better response, so make the effort to find out the name of the recruitment officer at the prospective company. If you can’t get a name, use salutations like “Dear Recruiter”, “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Search Committee”.
- Don’t be modest. You might not like to brag about your achievements, but you have to give the company a good reason to hire you. This is no time to be shy, but at the same time be honest and back up your statements with examples of how you have demonstrated these abilities.
- Don’t repeat your resume word-for-word. If your cover letter is an exact copy of your resume, then there’s no point writing one. Rephrase key statements and include only the highlights in your letter.
- Don’t end on a passive note. End your letter positively by referring to future action. Instead of asking the reader to call you, you could take matters into your own hands with a statement like I will follow up with you in a few days to answer any questions you may have. Don’t forget to include your contact details too.