A cover letter carries a lot of weight, when written correctly. It serves as an introduction — more specifically, a job-search agent for introducing you to those on the other end.
Why should I care about writing an amazing cover letter? No one will read it.
True, some hiring managers and recruiters have gone on the record and said they pitch cover letters, yet others proclaim just the opposite, stating the cover letter is the most important document written and received by a candidate.
As a jobseeker, this can get a bit confusing.
My rule of thumb is to analyze what’s happening in the real world. So, let’s perform a “kind-of” field trip. Visit any one of your favorite job boards, and type in “submit cover letter” within the search bar. Normally the search feature is reserved for inputting job titles, but for today, we’re going to use it to answer one simple question: should I care about sending cover letters?
After you completed your search, you learned thousands of companies with current job listings are requesting cover letters. Am I right? The truth is, countless employers still want jobseekers to provide cover letters … it’s that simple.
To ensure you’re always using a cover letter properly, let’s quickly review its intended purpose … because unfortunately, too many jobseekers use the cover letter like it’s a beta tool. A cover letter connects your resume to an open position. Just put yourself in the position of a hiring manager for a day. Hiring managers, recruiters, HR personnel and others within the hiring realm, see dozens or maybe hundreds and thousands of resumes per day. How receptive would you be at matching resumes up with the positions open within your employer? Regardless of whether the cover letter is ever seen nor read, including one puts another highly valuable foot soldier to battle and help win your war [well, job-search].
An amazing cover letter needs to not only spell out how you’re perfect for the position, but also address salary issues, employment gaps, and any other qualification discrepancies, along with willingness to travel, availability for interviews, and provide a catalog list on how your career history matches the company’s requirements.
Probably the best advice: use a cover letter about 95% of the time, or as many times as humanly possible.
Below is a list of errors to avoid when sending a resume to hiring companies:
SLOPPY COPY: MARGINS, FONT, PICA, AND CONTENT. The first impression given to any hiring agent is based on the overall appearance of your soft copy or printed cover letter because it’s the first item seen before proceeding onto the resume. If a cover letter arrives on that person’s desk or on their computer without consistent margins, font, pica, and without quality content, your candidacy has the potential of being “dead in the water” before the reader flips to your resume.
LISTING UNRELATED SKILLS OR QUALIFICATIONS is probably the most common mistake candidates make with cover letters. Be wise and mention only those significant achievements that pertain to your current position and title, or that of your current job focus. Listing irrelevant information in the cover letter can actually leave a negative impression, so revolve every sentence in your letter around the company’s needs and expectations of you.
NO CONTACT NAME LISTED. By not listing a contact name for the hiring company, shows lack of detail, not to mention, allowing the document to float around the employer’s office rather than sitting on the desk of the hiring agent. What if no contact information is available? Make a phone call to the company, or ask someone in your network for a contact name. Anytime you can add a personal salutation to your correspondence, you increase the chances of it being seen timely and by the right person.
INCORRECT OR INCOMPLETE ADDRESS. Double-check everything — even if you pulled the address from the phone book, a classified ad, or the company website. Check two different locations to verify that the address you’re listing is 100% accurate and complete. Why go the extra mile? To answer this question, ask yourself how many times have the spelling of your name or mailing address been screwed up? Enough said.
IMPROPER BUSINESS FORMAT. The lack of proper business format is another common mistake. Always use acceptable business format margins (for example, .75” to 1.0” left and right), and know when to indent and double space. To add an additional amount of flair to your letter, utilize the same font, margins, and header used within your resume. When reviewed as an entire package, whether online or when printed, each piece will look very professional and consistent.
By following these simple do’s and don’ts, the art of writing an amazing cover letter should become easier. One last word of caution, however. Before sending any document, ensure to proofread, proofread, and proofread! Sit on your letter overnight, if necessary, so you can proofread your materials again the next day. A fresh pair of eyes can worth their weight in interview gold.