I have yet to meet a job hunter who doesn't dread writing cover letters. They're time-consuming and tedious, and unfortunately, they're unavoidable. It's easy to break cover letter etiquette if you're not careful. Those errors can cost you the job, so check out some common mistakes to be sure you're playing by the most important rules.
In this digital job-searcher's day and age, where everything is pretty much done online, there are a couple of etiquette steps we often forget about.
One of the most important steps to take when turning in your résumé and cover letter via email or an online submission is to give it a proper name. Too often, people's résumés and cover letters are given the generic name "résumé.doc" or "coverletter.doc." Step it up a notch and personalize the files by adding your name and renaming them to "JaneSmithRésumé" and "JaneSmithCoverLetter.doc."
Remember, the hiring manager receives many submissions. If they're saving the files to their computer, you're saving them the extra step of renaming the documents.
Although your résumé is definitely important, the cover letter can also be a make-or-break factor. Before you even get an interview, your application will have to impress the recruiter or hiring manager, so perfecting your cover letter is key to earning a face-to-face meet. Here are some tips for the perfect cover letter that will catch any recruiter's eye:
- Tweak your tone for every company. Don't send generic cover letters that can be used for any job application. You want to make sure that the tone of your letter fits the type of firm you're applying to. Is the company looking for someone with sass or someone more serious? Figure that out on your own, and tailor your letter to what suits the company.
- Make a case. You won't be able to get to this on your résumé, so be sure to make the case for why you're the right person for the job on your cover letter and why you want to work for them. A good way to sell yourself is to connect your experiences with the job description. List your skills and experiences that match the type of candidate they are looking to hire.
- Be different. Don't repeat everything on your résumé in your cover letter. The letter is your chance to shine and show a bit of your personality. Repeating what's already been said just takes up valuable space.
Yes, we're all human. Yes, we all make mistakes. But your job search isn't the time to make them. Your attention to detail is crucial during a job hunt — even with a killer cover letter and résumé, mistakes that you may consider minor could just cost you the job. Keep these 10 job-hunting errors in mind for a better chance at getting that job offer.
Time after time, I've mentioned the importance of quantifying your accomplishments in your resume and cover letter. It's a tip that applies no matter the job or level of position, but there's one particular time you should steer clear of including a number in your cover letter — when you're talking about your age.
I've seen countless cover letters that include a line that goes something like this: "I'm a 26-year old who's a perfect fit . . . ". While you might see your age as an asset, the employer may not. In fact, they don't want to know how old you are and some may even discard your application because of the fact that you mentioned your age; it has nothing to do with your ability to do the job. If you're proud of how many years you have under your belt, keep it to yourself during a job search. It can only damage your efforts.
I'm applying for a receptionist job and they are taking resumes through email; there is no mention of a cover letter but I prepared one anyhow. Now, I'm not sure what to do. I've converted both documents into PDF files (they requested that for the resume), but I was wondering what do I say in the body of the email?
I did some Googling on this and it seems that some people suggest you put the cover letter in the actual body of the email. Is this right? Or should I compose a note simply stating that both the resume and cover letter are attached? Wouldn't it be redundant to attach my cover letter and paste the content into the body of an email?
Savvy says: Great call on drafting a proactive letter. To see my answer regarding cover letter placement, read more
We all know it's exciting to graduate college, and higher education is a big asset for any applicant. But don't boast your new diploma in the very first line, or even explicitly in your cover letter, like it's the best thing you have to offer a potential employer. Too many fresh-out-of-college graduates hurt their chances by beginning their cover letters with a sentence that reads: I just graduated from Blank University.
Your educational achievements will be clearly stated on your resume. As a new grad, you should use the cover letter to emphasize the experience you've acquired through various internships and jobs during your university years. If your major is directly applicable to the position for which you're applying, feel free to bring up projects or coursework that strengthens your candidacy. Just be sure they are highly relevant to the skills required for the job so the hiring manager isn't left wondering why you've included those details.
The economy may be nearing its bottom, but the job market isn’t getting any less competitive just yet. A friend who was recently laid off told me, "I wish I could attach a big flashing sign to my application that says, 'I’m competent, I promise! Please bring me in for an interview.'"
We’ve talked about how some job-seekers are doing almost exactly that, and a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette details how applicants are getting creative with their cover letters in particular — but not in a good way. In the article, Max Messmer, author of Job Hunting For Dummies, shares several cover letters whose authors felt that self-deprecation was the key to scoring an interview. My favorite: "I don't know what skills I could offer you or your company." Yikes!
Obviously the job-seekers featured in the article got it wrong, but unconventional cover letters are always a gamble. Some employers love them, and some toss them immediately. Have you ever taken an unorthodox approach to a cover letter? And if so, did it get you the job, or at least an interview?
Time-consuming cover letters might reduce the number of job applications you're able to fire out in a day, but including a letter increases your chances of landing an interview. Getting a foot in the door in this job market requires precision from job seekers, and it all starts with the introductory letter before employers even get to your resume. While cover letters can be a huge asset when they're done well, a poorly written letter can guarantee your resume doesn't get a first look. Cover your bases by following these eight tips.
- Do your best to find the name of the person who will be reviewing your resume, and as a last resort address it to the hiring manager.
- Steer clear of using too many sentences including "I"; instead, try to convey how your skills could help the company.
- Limit yourself to a maximum four paragraphs. Use the first paragraph to introduce yourself and the position you're applying for, then mention applicable skills and specific achievements while demonstrating your knowledge of the company, further explain your suitability if your resume can't say it all (like if you're changing careers), and sign off politely letting them know you'll be in touch.
To see five more cover letter tips, read more