Cover Letter Do's and Don'ts

Nancy Anderson
Posted by in Career Advice

Your cover letter should never be an afterthought. It introduces you to potential employers, sets up your resume, illustrates what you can bring to the job and helps you stand apart from other job seekers. Follow these do's and don'ts to be sure that your cover letter is up to par.

Do: Be Specific

Before even starting your cover letter, do your homework. Print the job posting, highlight vital information, and use these keywords when writing your cover letter. Address the employer's wants directly, explaining to them why your skills, qualifications, education and work experiences match up with the company's requirements and needs.

Don't: Get Too Personal

It's not necessary to tell a potential employer why you are seeking a job. Writing that you are unemployed or need a higher income is not the way to convince a hiring manager that you are right for the job. Instead, demonstrate to the hiring agency what you can do for the organization.

Do: Make Sure It's Flawless

Your cover letter should be absolutely perfect. Proofread it several times, and look for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and typos. Ask a trusted friend or family member to look over your cover letter to get a second perspective from a fresh set of eyes, or consider hiring a professional proofreader.

Don't: Duplicate Your Resume

Avoid repeating the same information in your cover letter that you've already included in your resume. The cover letter accompanies your resume and complements it, giving the potential employer a sneak peek of your personality. The resume specifically lays out your work experience, education and skills, while the cover letter discusses the strengths and benefits you can bring to the position.

Do: Be Direct

Don't waste time getting to the point in your cover letter. Use the first paragraph to tell what position you're interested in and why you are qualified for it. Tell the potential employer in specific terms why you are the best candidate for the job. Avoid just writing that you're a good salesman; tell how you were the top performer in your corporation for three consecutive years and grossed more than $50,000 in sales per quarter.

Don't: Make It Too Short

Your cover letter should be at least three paragraphs long. Use the introductory paragraph to introduce yourself, explain how you learned about the job opening and demonstrate why you should be hired. In the body of the cover letter, provide the specifics about your past achievements and strengths, and illustrate how they can benefit the hiring organization. Use the final paragraph to thank the hiring manager for his time and tell how you plan to follow up with the organization.

These do's and don'ts help you navigate cover letter writing. Spend as much time crafting and perfecting your cover letter as you do writing and proofreading your resume. These two key components of the job search work hand in hand to get job seekers hired.

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