If you want to stand out from the crowd, your cover letter should cover two important points:
- What you can do for the company
- How you can fill the company’s needs.
Concentrate on how you will benefit the company. Please use the variety of reference tools available to help you with grammar, spelling, and letter writing.
Send your letter to an individual, not a company. Take the time to determine the name and title of the addressee. Do not guess gender when addressing a letter. Dear Sir or Madam or Dear Hiring Manager, are not acceptable salutations.
Be sure to include a return address and telephone number. Include your street address, city, state, zip code, and telephone number. Omit your e-mail address if you do not check e-mail daily.
Address your letter to a person who can hire you: Contact the company and obtain the name and title of the person to whom to address your letter. This shows initiative and resourcefulness. It may also impress the reader with the fact that you reached them directly.
Never use all caps and do not justify the right margin. Presentation is as important an element as content and organization. Strive at all times for a professional appearance.
Use the KISS theory. Keep it short, simple, and no longer than one page. Each of the three paragraphs should have four or fewer sentences. Vary the sentence length and try to avoid either a stream of short sentences or very long sentences.
Send original letters only. A vague letter that could be sent to any employer by merely replacing the company name is called a broadcast letter. It doesn’t fool anyone.
Use concrete, specific language so that the reader gets a good sense of what you have done and who you are. Accentuate the good match between your skills and their needs. Keep the letter organized. Decide on the focus of your letter and ensure that all points reinforce the topic. Structure your letter so that each part achieves a particular goal.
Generate interest immediately. State the purpose of your letter in your opening paragraph. Whichever opening you choose, get to the point quickly by focusing on how you can contribute to the organization.
Adopt a tone in your letter that will promote you as a professional. Your letter should be as close to a business proposal as you can get, rather than a plea for an interview. What do you offer that is of value? What objectives can you help them achieve?
Appeal to the self-interest of the employer. Draft your letter in a way that shows how you will fit into the organization. Your accomplishments, skills, and background are the subjects of your sentences, but overall, you must emphasize how these skills match the employer’s needs.
Demonstrate your core skills and your broader skills. The serious applicant must possess the core skills expected of any candidate, as well as the broader range of skills that would go beyond the basic requirements and are useful to the employer. Show that you possess both and you will stand out from the competition.
Try to sound confident but not cocky. What is the difference? The dividing line between the two is very thin and the line is drawn by the reader, not the writer. A confident person knows the facts, states only those that are needed to get the point across, and moves on. The cocky person often magnifies, restates or provides more information that necessary.
Show you know something about the company and the industry. Without overdoing it, make it clear you did not pick the company out of the phone book.
Finish your letter with a request. Be sure to ask for an interview at the end of your cover letter. Let the prospective employer know that you will be following up. Be prepared to follow-up.
Proofread, proofread, and proofread – for errors and tone. Professional letters are error free. That means no spelling, typing or grammatical errors. Applicants are frequently deselected because of such mistakes.
Include a copy of your resume. After all, two purposes of the cover letter are to get your resume into the proper hands and to obtain an interview.