Don't Let Your Cover Letter be an After Thought

John Krautzel
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You’ve spent several hours crafting your resume, analyzing the formatting and proofreading every word. It’s flawless, you’re exhausted and you just want to get it in the mail, but you remember that you still need to include a cover letter. Throwing together a subpar cover letter as an afterthought is a common mistake made by job seekers and can make the difference between getting an interview and having your resume land on the rejection pile.

When writing your cover letter, don’t make the mistake of being overly formal. Many new graduates think that cover letters need to follow a professional format with an address at the top and a “dear sir or madam” salutation. Many career experts advise against this strategy, noting that it is outdated and impersonal. Show your initiative by finding out the name of the hiring manager and addressing the cover letter directly to him.

Avoid writing a cover letter that is excessive in length; more than one page is too much, while three paragraphs should be sufficient. Begin the cover letter by introducing yourself and telling the hiring manager how perfectly your skills and qualifications line up with the job duties. In the second paragraph, point out specific past work experiences that you have that relate to the job position. Don’t rehash or repeat what’s on your resume; highlight key points, and elaborate on soft skills, such as dedication and commitment, which may not be evident in your resume. Finally, use the last paragraph to briefly explain why you are the best candidate for the position while showing your passion for the job. It’s obvious to potential employers when you’re using a generic, canned cover letter, so make sure that yours is tailored specifically for the position you’re seeking.

To close out your cover letter, avoid the overused “sincerely,” and finish with “I look forward to hearing from you.” This phrase shows that you’re confident and makes the potential employer feel obligated to get in touch with you. Sign your name at the bottom, and include your phone number. Do not supply your email address, as you want the opportunity to speak to the hiring manager directly over the phone.

While you do want your cover letter to display your personality, avoid getting too personal. Do not mention any personal details that a potential employer could use to discriminate against you. Never mention your marital status, children or religious beliefs.

Don’t make the common mistake of letting your cover letter be an afterthought; put as much time into perfecting your cover letter as you do assembling your resume. The cover letter is likely the first point of contact you have with the potential employer and is typically read before the resume, so make sure your first impression is a strong one that captures the hiring manager’s attention and sets you apart from the rest.

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