Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts

By One2One Resumes

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In a previous blog post we discussed whether or not to include a cover letter with your employment application. My advice is yes, always take the time to individually craft a letter for each and every application. For more information see To cover letter or not?

Having made the decision to write a cover letter, use these tips to make sure you’ve covered all the do’s and don’ts.

Length

Cover letters should be concise and to the point. One page is more than enough. Respect the time of busy employers and recruiters; expecting them to be able to read 3 or 4 page letters can seem quite rude.

Your cover letter should be written using short paragraphs with 3 or 4 sentences per paragraph.

It is perfectly fine to use bullet points in your letter to highlight particular points. It is a great way of breaking up chunks of text and focusing attention of areas of importance.

Structure

The general structure of a cover letter is 4 paragraphs as follows:

First paragraph: A strong opening that grabs attention and tells the employer what you can do for them. Entice them to read your resume properly rather than a quick scan

Second paragraph: Discuss your unique selling points (USPs) and importantly, link them back to the employer’s needs. Your aim is to build a bridge between your USPs and their needs – don’t leave it open to interpretation, tell them.

Third paragraph: This is the section where you focus on your qualifications and experience. Don’t repeat verbatim what is in your resume.

Fourth paragraph: Close your letter with a call to action or at the very least, request an action. For instance, request an interview and tell them when you will follow up.

Cover Letter Do’s

  • Use a clean, visually appealing style and always include your name and contact details, and the job title and reference number.
  • Always address your cover letter to a person – their name and their position title. ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ shows no initiative and makes you look like everyone else. It takes very little effort to pick up the phone and find out the person’s name. It will impress.
  • You must include keywords in your cover letters in order to be detected in applicant tracking systems. Look at the advert and make sure you have included the same words in your letter. For information regarding keywords see Keywords – What are they? Why do I need them?
  • Focus on meeting the company’s needs. Remember, this is about the employer, not you. Don’t write a letter which states everything you want in a job. They haven’t advertised and said ‘tell us what you’re looking for’; they have asked you to meet their criteria … their needs.
  • Always address the points in the advert. Make sure you cover them all in your letter.
  • Be unique – generic template-type cover letters are boring and over used. You’re different, so be different.
  • Always close with a strong call to action. Never leave your letter open-ended or up to them. Take charge, tell them you will follow up and when. Make sure you diarise this and follow through … nothing looks worse than saying you will and then not doing it.

Cover Letter Don’ts

  • Don’t use the same generic letter for every position – tailor it specifically to the position you are applying for.
  • Don’t write huge paragraphs of text. Keep it quite short – 3 or 4 sentences per paragraph.
  • Don’t repeat your resume!
  • Don’t be negative, eg I left my last job because I didn’t like my boss or the long hours.

How to send your cover letter

This is a question I am often asked. You have 3 choices when applying online.

  1. Send two attachments – the cover letter and the resume.
  2. Copy and paste the cover letter and make it the first page of your resume, therefore uploading only one attachment.
  3. Copy and paste the contents of the cover letter and use it as the body of the email and then attach the resume.

There is no hard and fast rule. Everyone is different – some people prefer the convenience of one document, others say it increases the chances of both documents being read, others will tell you that if you attach 2 files only 1 will be opened. The safest way to approach it is to use points 2 or 3 above.

Before Sending

Proofread – over and over again. Read it backwards, read it aloud, give it to someone else to read, but make sure it is 100% error free! A mistake in your cover letter can mean that your resume never gets read!

Double-check the details of the addressee – correct spelling of the person’s first and surname and the correct position title.

Make a diary note of when you said you would follow up and be sure to do it!

Many jobseekers fall into the trap of spending time meticulously crafting a great resume and only give their cover letters a passing glance.

Don’t make that mistake; the cover letter is an important part of your application and should be treated with as much thought as your resume.

 

© Michelle Lopez, Owner/Career Consultant

One2One Resumes ABN 84 356 535 910/002

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