Useful Advice for Writing Cover Letters
An applicant is preparing for an interview for a job with a company that they’ve long dreamed of joining. A well-tailored business suit is chosen as the perfect attire. While dressing, the applicant goes over in their mind the things they want to say and the way they want to say it because they know that presentation is everything. Before leaving the house, they take one last look in the mirror to be reassured that they’ll leave the unmistakable impression of being the one for the job.
A cover letter has to be written with these same thoughts in mind: selecting the correct language, including the right facts, and checking to be sure the letter is properly structured. The cover letter is a concise representation of the applicant which is the first thing a hiring manager will see. Thus, it must be viewed as an initial introduction and should be written in a format that will provide a clear picture of an applicant who’s intelligent, highly qualified, and an ideal match for the job.
A busy manager facing dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of cover letters and resumes won’t have much of an attention span. Therefore, this letter should never be more than one page and the manager should be able to breeze through it with ease as he/she extracts the most important information that is relevant to the referenced job. The following is useful advice to consider:
- the applicant should begin by discussing the job posting they’re responding to and why they feel they’re best qualified to fill the position;
- avoid fancy designs, graphics, lettering and complex words as it could be seen as a cover to hide non-existent talent and qualifications. Using a simple font such as Times New Roman, Arial or Courier in font sizes of 10 or 12 will indicate professionalism sufficiently;
- the format used should facilitate easy reading. Margins should be set at one inch all around, and text should be broken into several short paragraphs with line spacing between each paragraph, as opposed to one or two lengthy paragraphs;
- hiring managers may be able to get past one insignificant error but receiving a letter that may be littered with spelling, grammatical and/or sentence structure errors will immediately destroy an applicant’s chances of further consideration for the job. Be sure to proofread enough times to produce a letter that is completely free of errors;
- using a conversational tone, the cover letter should portray a person who is confident about their abilities and genuinely assertive in a positive way. A light tone will convince the reader that the applicant is a pleasant person whom people would look forward to working with on a daily basis. The language should be straightforward and simple, covering the main points without doing so in a round-about way. Stay away from colloquialisms and slang because while family and friends may understand, a hiring manager can’t be counted on to be familiar with local vernacular;
- leave personal history out of the letter. The only interest is finding someone who can fill the position and knowing about one’s personal life contributes little to help make this decision;
- NEVER include false information as these falsities will only be revealed during background checks; and
- using a sentence or two to describe the company’s business is a good idea to show the hiring manager one’s knowledge of the company. The applicant should follow with the reason why they believe they’re capable of making valuable contributions to further enhance the company’s stature.
The cover letter is used to market the applicant as briefly and clearly as possible. This must be done by including information describing unique skills and a comprehensive work history in a way that’s immediately noted by the reader while making an unforgettable impression that inspires an interest to meet at the earliest possible convenience. It should not be a generic letter that could be sent to any employer, but should be a letter that is specifically directed to the referenced company. This is the applicant’s only opportunity to get their foot in the door so they must do their utmost to present themselves as the finest . . . and only candidate for the job.