“Dear sir or madam, I am writing to apply for the position of … zzzzz.”
Hear that? That’s the sound of a hiring manager or human resources person trying to slog through a ho-hum cover letter, and nodding off. Never give the people who make the hiring decisions a reason to flip to the next resume. Instead, skip the boring intro and catch their attention with a kick ass cover letter by following these tips:
Get the basics down. If you’ve never written a cover letter before, fear not–the internet is full of cover letter samples. Do a quick search for the kind of cover letter you need. (For example: entry level cover letters) You don’t want to copy a sample cover letter word for word, but they’re a great way to see formatting and structure, and they’ll give you an idea of what the competition looks like.
Customize every letter you send out. Yes, every letter. If you want a company to take you seriously, you have to take the job you’re applying for seriously. Sending a generic cover letter gives the impression that you’re not interested enough in the job to write a personalized letter. Instead of saying “I love ABC Company,” mention a specific detail that you like about their work. Have the job description in front of you as you craft your cover letter, so you can mention the specific qualifications you have that make you right for the job.
Be Yourself. A resume lists your qualifications, but a cover letter can give the hiring manager a sense of your personality and whether you’ll be a good fit for the company. A stereotypical cover letter might include wording like, “I wish to convey my interest in the position,” but does that really convey who you are as a person? Instead of overly polite, flowery wording, write in your own voice, and keep the tone conversational, but professional.
Believe in yourself and your chances. You might be tempted to say something like “I might not be the most qualified candidate, but…” Don’t do it. A cover letter isn’t the place for self-deprecation. Focus on what you can bring to the company, and the positive attributes that make you the best choice for the job.
Be specific. Instead of saying, “I’m honest, hardworking, and creative,” write something that reveals an aspect of your personality and shows how qualified you are. “I’ve been writing a sports column for my university’s school paper for two years, and I’m excited about the opportunity to cover sports for you.”
Keep it short and sweet. Think of the cover letter as the cover for your resume. A cover is one page. If your cover letter is more than one page, edit it down. Nowadays, instead of a paper business letter, many cover letters are sent in the body of an email, or by filling in a box on a web form. If you’re submitting your cover letter this way, stick to three short paragraphs – and be sure to include your contact information in the message.
End with action. “I look forward to hearing from you,” is a weak way to end a cover letter. Instead of waiting around for a response that may never come, be proactive. Let the hiring manager know when you’ll call to follow up–and then do it!
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