Cover Letter Tips

A cover letter is essentially a letter of introduction that you include with your job application to grab the employer's attention and summarize - at a very high level -- what's in your resume. It is in the cover letter that you explain who you are and why you are applying for the specific job. Understand that your resume is a "fact-sheet," while the cover letter is your "sales pitch" to the employer. Particular aspects of your resume need to be emphasized, expanding on your stronger points and using as many keywords as are relevant to the requirements of the particular position. In short, your cover letter should be unique and job-specific. Many clients have found the following two resume cover letter services valuable:

Also remember never to use sexist salutations like "Gentlemen" or "Sir" when answering a blind ad-the person reading your cover letter might be a woman. Do use action verbs. Don't send a cover letter that contains any misspellings, incorrect grammar or punctuation -get someone else to proofread it. Before you submit your cover letter, double-check to see that it is signed, preferably in blue ink -- blue shows that it is the original, not just one of a mass of copies you have sent to a large number of employers. Consult additional pages on this web site for more cover letter information: Resume Cover Letters.

TIP 1: Keep it brief

Keep your cover letter brief and to the point. Writing more than one page is usually unnecessary. As for cover letters that you plan to email, writing three short paragraphs is quite sufficient. It's important that the whole cover letter fits on the computer screen without scrolling. Make every word count.

TIP 2: Avoid Generic Layouts

Make your cover letter stand out from the hundreds of others an employer may be receiving. Some people tend to use generic cover letters that they get from the internet and books. Employers are quick to recognize trite layouts and might not even read them. It's important that you keep yours unique and job-specific.

TIP 3: Content - Important Key Points

Describe how your qualifications fit the skills needed for the job. Give specific examples of how your past experience qualifies you for the job you're seeking. Add any other relevant skills, qualities, achievements, and experiences that make you the best candidate for the job.

TIP 4: Make it Simple

Some job-seekers tend to use complicated language and vocabulary to make a good impression on the employer. This is a mistake and instead gives a bad impression of your writing skills. Try to use simple and "lean" language, which will have a greater impact on the reader. For example, break words down into their simpler form: "use" instead of "utilize." Remove any prepositional phrases you can and replace them with adjectives. Instead of "jobs of great importance," say "important jobs." Your goal is to make the letter as short as possible and to make every word count.

TIP 5: Avoid Negativity

Try to avoid negative aspects of your previous job, such as why you left, and self-justifying statements like, "Why there are gaps in my employment dates…" It would be better to counter these negative points in person during the interview.

TIP 6: Stress Your Qualifications and Achievements

Be specific when describing your professional and academic qualifications. Also note that, as with your resume, you want to emphasize accomplishments and performance rather than job duties. Use keywords to do this.

If you do not have a lot of solid experience in the field, emphasize your education and other experiences that make you a good candidate. Focusing on key skills that can easily transfer from your previous work experience to the job at hand can really help in this situation. You may want to consult Job Skills on this site to learn more about these transferable competencies.

TIP 7: Avoid Clichés

Using clichés such as "As you can see on my resume enclosed herewith" and other overused phrases might only irritate the employer instead of impressing him/her. They are also a waste of space when you are trying to make every word count.

TIP 8: Avoid Salary History

Try not to mention your salary history in the cover letter. But if the job ad specifically says that you must state your salary history, give an acceptable range, stating that your salary requirements are flexible based on the detailed requirements of the position applied for.  Never include an unsolicited salary request.

TIP 9: Avoid the Three Most Common Mistakes:

These are the three most common cover letter mistakes, as listed by the experts.

  • Not addressing the letter to a named individual. If no one is named, then say "Dear Director of Human Resources," or even "Dear (Name of Company)."
  • Failing to be specific about job skills.
  • Using a generic cover letter designed for any job or even any job in a particular industry. The cover letter needs to be job-specific.

TIP 10: Follow-up

One key to improving your chances of getting the job is follow-up. You should make one or two additional attempts to get an interview, sending an email, voice mail or letter emphasizing how interested you are in the job. You might also bring an article of interest to the employer's attention, showing that you are on top of industry news. Be persistent but not pushy when doing job follow-up.