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Cover Letter Tips

There’s a reason why people joke that job hunting is a full time job.  Not only do you need to search for openings, you have to compose a resume.  Moreover, beyond your resume, you must also write a cover letter.  That’s right – more documents!  Unfortunately, cover letters are essential.  After all, they’re typically your introduction to a prospective employer.  And a strong cover letter might just be what convinces a hiring manager to call you in for an interview!  Therefore, we thought it prudent to put together a few rules to help you craft a great letter.  Without further ado, our tips and tricks:

Don’t simply reiterate your resume.  You won’t bolster your candidacy if you just repeat what’s included on another document.  Instead, use this space to smartly complement and expand upon what’s already mentioned on your resume.

Make sure you send a customized letter.  Employers are pretty savvy when it comes to figuring out if you’re just emailing a form letter (i.e. virtually a carbon copy of ones that you’ve sent off for dozens of other applications).  Even if a lot of the information is the same, you want to ensure each letter has a personal feel.  That means addressing the letter to a specific person (if possible) and mentioning explicit facets about the company or job that excite you.

Before sitting down to write, spend some time perusing the company’s website.  As an addendum to the point mentioned above, surfing an organization’s site will allow you to get a sense of the language they use, the company culture and on what they might place a premium.  If you can mirror these in the letter you write,  you’ll likely be viewed as a good fit for the company!

Avoid being overly formal.  Sure, you want your letter to sound mature and professional.  However, many applicants often go a little too far and end up coming across as robotic or even insincere.  You want your excitement and enthusiasm for the position to appear genuine.

Steer clear of simply writing clichés.  Most job seekers can claim to be good communicators or effective multi-taskers.  Unfortunately, many of these pronouncements end up seeming empty or dubious.  You want to address your assets in a deeper, more descriptive way.  And you should definitely back up your points with concrete examples.  The HR exec or hiring manager is much more likely to give them credence.

Don’t apologize for skills that might be weak or non-existent.  It’s never a good idea to call attention to any shortcomings you may have (unless you’re explicitly asked of course).  You want to focus on the positive and the skills/talents you can bring to the job.  Plenty of people apply to jobs despite not meeting 100% of the requirements listed.  Remember – you can always learn/acquire new skills!

Use keywords and/or industry jargon.  Incorporating industry jargon into your letter will help you appear both knowledgeable and passionate about your chosen field.  Additionally, by peppering in keywords, you’ll demonstrate that you paid close attention to the job listing.  And, more importantly, you will show that you have the skills the job demands.

Have friends or family read it over.  Just like your resume or college application essay, you’ll want another pair of eyes to review your letter.  An outside reader will likely catch any typos you might have missed.  Further, they can provide an objective perspective and let you know if anything sounds weird or confusing.

Don’t write a novel!  Hiring managers don’t have the time or patience to read a long letter (even one that’s brilliantly written).  Hence, just like your resume, a cover letter should never be more than one page.  Figure out how to highlight your important points and accomplishments in a concise manner.

Cover letters are an important part of the job hunting process.  You want to make sure whatever you write opens doors, rather than slams them shut (metaphorically of course)!  


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