9 Game Changing Tips for Your Cover Letter
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
While there's always some argument about whether or not prospective employers actually bother to read cover letters, no one seems to dispute the fact that you need one anyway. Since cover letters are often your first impression, they must be flawless.
There are several common mistakes that are easy to make on your cover letter. However, you can avoid these errors if you know what they are!
We're going to look at nine quick tips that can vastly improve your cover letter. When evaluating these tips, always consider things from the perspective of the employer.
Use these tips to make your cover letter shine:
1. Spelling and grammar are critical. Your spelling and grammar should be impeccable. Use the spelling and grammar function on your word processor. If you're not sure about the usage that's being suggested by your software, ask someone else.
2. Show you have long-term interest. Companies depend on tenured employees as the foundation of their success. Hiring and training a new employee is expensive, so companies need to believe that you’re in it for the long haul.
3. Stay local if you can. Unless the position pays quite well, companies prefer local applicants. There are no moving and travel expenses, and they can be sure that you’re comfortable with the area and won’t jump ship for geographical reasons.
If you are interested in relocating, help them understand the reasons. Are you willing to relocate for the right position? Do you have family in the area? Is this your dream company? Have you been to this city before and you really liked it?
4. Avoid vagueness. Companies are almost always looking for someone to perform specific tasks and manage specific responsibilities. Be clear about what you're looking for and what you have to contribute. Bridge past examples that showcase your transferable skills that are relevant to this position. What did you love about your past jobs? Connect what you enjoyed to this position.
5. Be unique. After a while, all applicants and cover letters start to look the same. But if you put considerably more time into your cover letter, it will stand out compared to all the others. Use at least one specific example to help them understand the reason you are interested in this job. What do you think you will really enjoy about this job? What sounds really interesting about the position to you?
6. Be 100% professional. Was your last boss a jerk? Was your last employer cheap? Those things might true, but it looks bad if you mention them. If you don't have anything nice to say, keep it to yourself. Make sure you work through these feelings with a friend, a coach or counselor so you don’t blurb something out during the interview.
7. Show some personality. Employers will feel more connected to you when you are authentic and specific in your cover letter. Focus on what you find interesting about the job and what you hope to contribute. Most cover letters are completely generic. Yes, even a vague cover letter will help the employer see your writing skills, one of the reasons they are interested in reading your cover letter in the first place, however, it is more helpful if you help them understand your motivators regarding the job.
8. Come from a position of strength. The employer is only interested in what you can do for them and how you fit into the company culture. Expressing neediness, desperation, or other personal issues won’t help you. Focus on your strengths and skills and show them what you can do for them.
9. Be reasonable. Commonly, applicants apply for positions that are either way beyond or way beneath their experience. In the first case, the employer will never believe you can perform the job adequately. In the second case, the employer won’t trust that you'll stay. Stretch yourself, but be reasonable in your aspirations.
Cover letters are a necessary part of any professional job search. Always present yourself as a professional and keep the perspective of the employer in the front of your mind.
Hiring managers are always looking for someone that can competently perform the job, fit into the corporate environment, and show a reasonable amount of loyalty. Get these things across in your cover letter and you'll have that new job before you know it!