Whether cover letters are essential to your job search or not (some hiring managers and recruiters believe they are), many candidates believe there’s no correct or wrong way to write one. That’s wishful thinking and it could result in not being considered for a position.
Cover Letters Must Be as Stellar as Your Resume
In an article on Robert Half Finance & Accounting, stellar cover letter fundamentals are discussed. These include:
- Make your stellar cover letter specific to the job being sought. This is invaluable advice. As a hiring manager, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received letters for openings in bookkeeping, teaching fine arts, healthcare, IT, etc., when I was actually posting for a resume writer. I knew that the candidate simply recycled a cover letter for another position. Did that individual actually think I wouldn’t notice it wasn’t for the job opening I had offered? Probably. Unfortunately for that candidate, I passed on the cover letter and resume.
- Don’t repeat your resume in your cover letter. Few things are more irritating than reading the same verbiage and facts again and again. Your cover letter should introduce your most relevant skills/knowledge/abilities to a hiring manager or a recruiter as they pertain to the position. You should dovetail what you know and can do to what the position requires. The resume builds upon this information; it doesn’t repeat it.
- Use key words. Many, if not most, companies use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to screen resumes and cover letters before a human being even sees them. If your cover letter and/or resume doesn’t contain the appropriate key words for the position, you’ll be rejected immediately. What are key words? For an accountant they might be: Accounts Payable, Account Receivable, Reconciliations, IRS Audits, etc.
- Length matters. No stellar cover letter needs to be over one page in length. If yours is, shorten it. A cover letter is a sneak peek into your most relevant skill set for a particular job. It’s not a biography of your life or work history.
- No mistakes. In addition to using spell/grammar check, you need to proofread carefully. There are many words that spell check will never catch because they aren’t misspelled, simply misused. Examples of this would be: manger instead of manager, from instead of form, massage instead of message.
A Few Other Stellar Cover Letter Tips
Two other things we would recommend:
- Use the job poster’s or hiring manager name for the cover letter salutation. If you don’t know what it is, Google the company or check LinkedIn. Never address a cover letter to ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ – or worse – ‘To Whom It May Concern’. That’s tantamount to addressing it to “Dear Occupant’. It also shows lack of attention to detail.
- Don’t start by telling what the job poster or hiring manager what the company does. Letters that begin with “Bettered is the leading internet provider of resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, etc. etc. and it has proven to be…” doesn’t help the company understand who you as a candidate. It’s the candidate the recruiter or hiring manager need to know more about.
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