Writing a cover letter to accompany each job application should become a habit. While it’s true that not every hiring manager reads them, there are many who do, and a well-crafted cover letter can give you an edge. Before the employer even lays eyes on your resume, you are already setting the stage and positioning yourself as someone they should be paying attention to. Without a cover letter, you are wasting this opportunity.
As you carefully construct your cover letter and tailor it to the role, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind:
Don’t exceed one page. You want to be clear and concise. Any more than a page and you’re overdoing it. Be strategic in selecting exactly what points or accomplishments you emphasize and make sure they are aligned with what the employer is looking for.
Do tailor each cover letter to the position. Avoid using the exact same cover letter for every role and just changing the job title/company. You can keep many things the same, but make adjustments that show why you would be a good fit for that specific role.
Don’t rehash your entire resume. This defeats the point of your cover letter because the employer could look at your resume and find the same information. Keep your cover letter fresh and focus on strengths that make you stand out and show you are capable to doing the job and doing it well.
Do personalize the greeting whenever possible. This makes a much stronger impact than a generic greeting of “sir,” “madam,” or the dreaded “to whom it may concern.” It also shows that you have put forth the effort to do your research and know who is in charge.
Don’t make it all about what you want. Yes, your cover letter is about you, but it should be geared toward what you can do for the company, not what they can do for you. It’s great that you’ve always wanted to work there, or it will allow you to expand your project management skills, but that doesn’t tell the employer what you bring to the table. Be more specific and direct about why they should want you as part of their team.
Do prompt action in your closing paragraph. Tell the employer that you would like to schedule an interview for further discussion about the position, or let them know that you will follow up in a week. Don’t put all of the onus on the employer when you can be proactive and help keep things moving.
Your cover letter shouldn’t be an afterthought to your job search. It should be an integral part of your application package. Unless the job opening specifically requests no cover letter, it is a good idea to send one along and put effort into creating it. You never know when your cover letter could be what sets you apart from someone who is equally qualified for the job.