The Do's and Don'ts of Cover Letters

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Cover letters are still important, here's why...
I know, I know, I keep saying it. The truth is, I could probably say it a hundred more times and still there would be people who wouldn't believe me. So, here it is again – Cover letters are one of the most important things you can do to make your resume stand out.
When you are looking for a job, it might seem that writing a cover letter is a waste of time and a little bit old fashioned, but the truth is that it still makes you look like a professional who pays attention to the details. A well written cover letter shows that you are classy, which is always a good thing.
If you have been hesitant to include a cover letter every time you send in a copy of your resume, either because you weren't sure how or felt that they weren't important, here are the do's and don'ts of cover letters:
  • Include a cover letter every time – You are asking someone to give you a job that will, hopefully, pay you enough money to support yourself. Isn't that at least worth writing a brief note? If you were working at a job and had to send a project or proposal to a client, you would probably at least include a short note. Applying for a job is no different.
  • Write a new letter for each job – No one likes form letters. Well, except for my Grandfather, but I think that he just doesn't realize that the junk mail he gets aren't actual letters that need a reply. But, aside from him, most people can tell the difference between a letter that was written for them and a copy/paste form letter. Form letters make you look lazy and show that you don't mind sacrificing quality for speed. These aren't traits you want to advertise. Instead, write a new letter for each job you apply for.
  • Answer questions – If you think your resume could raise questions, answer them in the cover letter. For example, if you are applying for a job in a different state or geographic area, mention that you are moving to the area or if you are taking a step down, address that briefly as well.
  • Keep it short – A good cover letter should be one page, with three paragraphs. You don't even have to fill the entire page. The cover letter is just a brief introduction that lets an employer know why they should take a look at your resume.
  • Mention the job you are applying for – Always mention the job title you are applying for and where you heard about the opening. This will reinforce the fact that you wrote the cover letter just for this particular job.
  • Don't use an out of date greeting - “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sirs” isn't appropriate any longer. The former is too formal while the latter is making a risky assumption that the hiring manager or managers are men, which is a mistake that could cost you the job. Instead, why not opt for “Good Morning,” or “Hello”.
  • Don't use technical language – The recruiter or hiring manager might not be familiar with acronyms or other jargon. Instead, use a conversational tone and words that anyone can understand.
  • Don't make it too long – Anything more than a page is overkill. If you feel that you need to write a great deal to compensate for your resume, then fix the resume. Keep the cover letter brief.
  • Don't forget to proofread – Nothing looks quite as bad as several errors on a cover letter. Take the extra time to read over what you've written a few times and be sure it is all correct and easy to read.
Cover letters can be a snap, the trick is to not overthink them. They are just a short note to introduce yourself and give the hiring manager an idea about who you are and why they should read your resume.
Do you send a cover letter every time? Why or why not?
By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer for HealthcareJobsiteBlog. Along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.

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