Tips to Improve Your Cover Letters

On 02/19/2012, in Cover Letters & Resumes, by Jordan Wilson

We saw in “Cover Letters Are Still Important” that cover letters are very useful in securing a job. In fact, 80% of hiring managers find value in reviewing job applicant cover letters.

So how can you improve your next cover letter? 

In “Terrible Cover Letters”, I made a few suggestions.

And in “Cover Letters Are Still Important”, I linked to an OfficeTeam article that offers recommendations on improving your cover letters and job application.

Cover Letter Suggestions From OfficeTeam

OfficeTeam lists 5 decent recommendations.

1. Follow directions. Before sending your materials, read the job posting carefully. Employers frequently list specific instructions to follow when applying, such as including the job requisition number in the subject line of the email or submitting your cover letter and resume in a certain file format.

2. Start smart. Address the letter to the hiring manager by name instead of using “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” If you don’t know the contact’s name, call the company and ask.

3. Create a hook. A strong introduction offers a compelling reason to read on. Indicate which position you’re applying for and if someone referred you, then state how you can help the company meet its business objectives.

4. Keep it short and to the point. Limit your cover letter to two or three brief paragraphs. Avoid sharing personal details that don’t relate to the position.

5. Get it right. Have a friend or family member proofread your materials for typos. Before submitting, confirm the correct documents are included.

My Thoughts on OfficeTeam’s Suggestions

Good advice. In fact, I have addressed some of these suggestions previously.

1. A job advertisement is like an exam. Know what is being asked as far as skills and experience. Then tailor your cover letter and resume to specifically address each requirement.

2. Do your research. Know who you will be meeting with at the interview and to whom you are sending your application. And by “know”, I mean more than just their name. Do your due diligence on the company, industry, and people you will meet.

3. Attract the reader’s interest. There will be many submissions from candidates with very similar backgrounds. Separate yourself from the herd. But do not go overboard.

4. Length depends on the position and your experience. If you have 30 years experience and are applying for a very senior role, perhaps a page and a half cover letter is acceptable. But for most applications, try and keep it under a page.

5. Having a friend or family member review may or may not be fine. It depends on the application and the person. If I was applying for a senior finance position, I would not want my mother reviewing the cover letter.

Use some common-sense. I recommend trying to find someone familiar with the industry and having strong language skills to review the cover letter (and resume). And someone who will provide candid feedback.

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