If you’re looking for information on how to write a cover letter, you’re in the right place. A large number of books and websites will note that your cover letter is essential to introducing your resume. In our findings, this is usually not the case. Our research has proven that more often than not, the reviewer will read your cover letter only if your resume passes an internal review. However, it’s still an important and necessary part of the job application process.
Before we move on to the cover letter tips, we wanted to touch on the topic of paid resume and cover letter services. In the past, we were skeptical of paying to have a resume or cover letter professionally written. However, after testing the services we’ve drastically changed our opinion.
Reason being, prices for resumes and cover letter writing services these days are fairly reasonable (full services start at about $125). We’ve recommended a few of our top picks, only highlighting services that hire top-notch professionals. Therefore, you can rest assured that the individual writing your resume is someone that has studied how to position your skills for your particular industry. Bottom line, they’re not just using templates to write your resume – each resume is individually written. In closing, while the cover letter tips below will assist you in the preparation of your cover letter, we would recommend using a paid service from the beginning, or using a semi self serve free resume and cover letter builder that provides a cover letter and resume critique after you’ve completed a final draft of your cover letter.
Without further ado, on with the free cover letter tips…..
When writing your cover letter (and resume), keep in mind that the reviewer is only interested in one thing; the facts. Do not think of your cover letter as an autobiography; it should be brief and to the point. The purpose of the cover letter and resume should be one thing – it should demonstrate that you meet or exceed the requirements listed in the job description. It should demonstrate that you’re interested in the position, and that you are available to accept the position if offered. Additional information beyond this can be counterproductive as it dilutes the core purpose of the cover letter and resume.
When writing the cover letter, avoid negatives. A cover letter is not the place to explain why you left or are leaving an employer, why there are gaps in your employment dates, etc. These “negatives” are best delivered in person during the interview so that your personality and can counter them.
Try to avoid a salary history in the cover letter. Even if the position specifically asks for your salary history, providing this information will more likely to cost you a job than not. If the job ad specifically says that resumes without a salary history will not be considered, give a historical salary range and state that your salary requirements are flexible based on the opportunity the position will provide.
Spend time thinking about the layout of your letter, and make it sure that it is easy on the eyes. It should be easy to scan the letter and have a logical progression. Keep in mind, the reviewer of your resume has 100’s (if not 1,000s) of cover letters and resumes to look at, therefore make it easy for him/her
to find the information you want to highlight. Bunched up text in long paragraphs will frustrate anyone who has to review hundreds of resumes and cover letters a week. In addition to the layout, don’t just repeat your resume. Your cover letter is not a summary of your resume, instead its an introduction of yourself and an argument for why you are the best candidate for their company and the specific position – ie – avoid the generic cover letter (this point will be noted again in later tips).
PLEASE do NOT follow the advice of poorly written resume books and websites that advise on using platitudes and clichés in your cover letter. Resume reviewers do this for a living. They know that almost every candidate promises “excellent written and verbal communication skills”, and the ability to “think outside the box” and “juggle multiple tasks”. The point here is to be different and stand out. The goal is to demonstrate your written communication skills by writing a good cover letter – Cutting and pasting a phrase from a cover letter / resume book is not impressive.
As noted above, personalize your cover letter if possible. Your cover letter should be addressed to a specific person – avoid the “Dear Sir or Madam”. Form letters insult the reviewer’s intelligence and indicate that you, the writer, are broadcasting his/her resume to every employer in the area. Or you have not made an effort to learn more about the company. Generic/canned cover letters can lead to failure. Even if you do not know the name of the recipient, you usually can find a contact name at the company fairly easily. Go to their company website, and search the “about us” pages for names of individuals to address your cover letter and resume to. It takes a few seconds; however will make your letter stand out.