Basic Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts

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Stop debating whether or not you should include a cover letter with your resume because in today’s hard knock job market, you should ALWAYS include one (unless a job listing specifically asks you not to). The cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself to an employer, tell them a little about yourself, and explain why you think you’d be the best fit for the job. So it’s safe to say that half-assing this document isn’t going to get you where you want to be, which is in the employer’s office for an interview.

With all the questions I’ve been fielding lately on the cover letter front, I thought it was a good time to address the subject with a do and don’t list to make your job search a little easier.

Do personalize your letter if possible. If you put in the effort of trying to find out whose desk this letter will land on and aren’t having any luck, then “Dear Hiring Manager,” will have to suffice. I’ve used it and have gotten the call back so I can tell you it does work, but if you can get a name, that’s what will initially separate you from the rest of the pack.

Don’t use a generic template you found online. You absolutely must tailor your cover letter (and resume) to fit the company and position.  Here’s why.

Do be brief and specific. Your cover letter should be three to four short paragraphs that state where you saw the job listing or who referred you to the job, what you can offer the company and position, and a call to action stating how you plan to follow up. And when talking specifics, use short bullet points showing your biggest accomplishments that apply to the position.  A few bullet points on a page full of text will make your key accomplishments stand out.

Don’t restate your resume. If the company takes the time to address what skills and qualifications they are looking for, be sure to address what skills and qualifications (out of the ones listed) you can fulfill. Pick one previous example of a past project and explain what you achieved and how it can relate to the position you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a sales job, give the reader detailed information on an account you nailed. Save the rest of your job history for your resume.

Do include your contact information. When you end your letter with your name, also include your preferred phone number, your email address, your current place of residence, and in some cases, your social footprint. I’ve seen more job postings asking applicants to include links to their social media accounts. To make this simple for both you and the employer, include a link to your about.me page (if you don’t have one, consider creating one), which hosts links to all of your social media profiles in one spot.

Don’t end on a passive note. Show an employer you care about landing this position with a call to action. Instead of ending with, “I hope to hear from you soon,” write that you will follow up within a week to make sure your materials were received and to hopefully set up a time to talk about the position. Just don’t forget to follow up! If you’re unsure of how to follow up after sending a job application, try this.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career

Comments

  1. says

    Good Advice. I agree every resume should be accompanied with a well written cover letter. A good cover letter will create interest and entice the employer to continue reading and review your resume. You should always go to the extra effort to find out who the hiring manager is rather than address your cover letter to a generic title. Do also ensure your cover letter format matches consistently with your resume.

  2. says

    Thanks for your response and your additions, Meaghan! Addressing a person in your cover letter rather than a generic “Dear Hiring Manager” can certainly make a difference.

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