Cover Letter Do’s And Don’t’s
Cover letters not only introduce you to new employers, but they also add value to your application. They elaborate on items discussed within resumes and also add a degree of personality, which can show employers who you are beyond your resume and if you’re a good fit for the team. In this article, we discuss what a cover letter is, explain its importance and list a series of do’s and don’t’s when creating one.
What Should Be In An Email Cover Letter
An email cover letter contains most of the same elements as a regular cover letter, but you also need to include a subject line.
Your subject line should be something similar to this:
Application for role
When writing an email cover letter, you also dont need to include the hiring managers name and address.
Heres what an email cover letter will look like:
Dont forget to attach your resume and full-length cover letter to your email. An email cover letter is usually just a couple of paragraphs informing the hiring manager youre applying for the role, and telling them your full cover letter and resume are attached.
Should I Mail Or Email My Resume
After youve worked like crazy to create the perfect resume and have reviewed it multiple times to make sure there are no errors, its time to send it to prospective employers. Many employers accept and might even prefer an electronically submitted resume, but most still allow accept resumes sent by U.S. mail.
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Case Study #: Catch Their Attention
Over the past four years, Emily Sernaker applied for multiple positions at the International Rescue Committee . She never gave up. With each application, she sent a personalized cover letter. I wanted my cover letter to highlight my qualifications, creative thinking, and genuine respect for the organization, she says.
Sarah Vania, the organizations regional HR director, says that Emilys letters caught her attention, especially because they included several video links that showed the results of Emilys advocacy and fundraising work at other organizations. Emily explains, I had prior experience advocating for former child soldiers, human trafficking survivors, vulnerable women, and displaced persons. Its one thing to make statements in a cover letter, like I can make a pitch, I am a creative person, I am thoughtful, but showing these qualities seemed like a better way of convincing the recruiter that the statements were true.
This is what Emily wrote to Sarah about the video:
Here is a short video about my story with activism. The nonprofit organization Invisible Children made it for a youth conference I spoke at this year. It is about four minutes.
As youll see from the video, Ive had a lot of success as a student fundraiser, raising over $200,000 for Invisible Children. Ive since gone on to work as a consultant for Wellspring International and have recently concluded my studies as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar.
Is It Better To Staple Or Paperclip A Resume
It is better to paperclip a resume. Paperclipping your resume is better than stapling it because its easier for a hiring manager to remove a paperclip if they want to scan each page. However, its better to submit a one-page resume for most job seekers, and a one-page resume doesnt require staples or paperclips.
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Heres A Universal Hiring Truth
The vast majority of résumés do NOT I repeat, DO NOT make it past the ATS which means the human reader never see it and you dont get the interview. Period.
If youve applied to dozens, if not hundreds, and possibly THOUSANDS of jobs and got little to no response, its a high probability that the ATS blocked your résumé.
You can download the ATS checklistTop 40 Ways To Help Your Résumé Beat the Computer ATS and Attract Interviews
If your résumé was one of the lucky few that actually made it past the ATS, then the next possibility is that the human reader just wasnt impressed for a number of reasons.
At the end of the day, there are many reasons why you dont get the interview which might have to do with your résumé, but it might not.
Or it could be a combination of reasons. Who the fuck knows. Sorry for swearing, but its frustrating, even for me!
The Short And Sweet Cover Letter
This cover letter sheds the excesses of a standard cover letter in favor of a simple, to-the-point approach:
Why this is a good cover letter
This short cover letter doesnt waste any time explaining why the candidate is a good fit for the vacant nursing position theyre trying to land. In a few concise paragraphs, the candidate states their interest in the position and confidently summarizes their professional achievements.
While cutting down on the details might not work for every industry, in this case the applicant knows exactly what the employer is looking for and addresses that need directly.
This helps save the hiring manager the work of going through a lengthy cover letter for the information they want. In a field as busy as nursing, this directness is often appreciated.
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Relying On A Template
Companies can spot a template letter a mile off no matter how you try to conceal it. People do it as a means of applying for a lot of jobs quickly but its a pointless exercise since the rejection rate will be close to 100%! Few things shout lazy more than a stock letter.
If you cant be bothered to do some research about the job and company, how likely is it that youll be a conscientious employee?
How To Structure A Cover Letter
Although there are no set rules on how your cover letter should be structured, making sure it flows well is vital if you want to impress recruiters.
Heres a rough guideline on what to include when writing a cover letter:
Opening the letter Why are you getting in touch?
The opening paragraph should be short and to the point, explaining why youre getting in touch. Its also useful to include where you found the ad i.e. as advertised on reed.co.uk. If someone referred you, mention their name in this section.
Example: I wish to apply for the role of IT Manager, currently being advertised on reed.co.uk. Please find enclosed my CV for your consideration.
Second paragraph Why are you suitable for the job?
Briefly describe your professional and academic qualifications that are relevant to the role and ensure you refer to each of the skills listed in the job description.
Example:As you can see from my attached CV, I have over three years experience in the IT Industry, and I believe the knowledge and skills built up during this time make me the perfect candidate for the role.
Third paragraph What can you do for the company?
Nows your opportunity to emphasise what you can do for the company. Outline your career goals and expand on pertinent points in your CV including examples to back up your skills.
Fourth paragraph Reiterate
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss my application further.
Closing the letter
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Your Excitement About The Position
Heres an exercise: Think about yourself in the job youre applying for. What do you feel? Youre probably pretty pumped, huh. Now harness some of that excitement and put it down on paper.
For example, if you were applying to a web design or UX job, you could write, For as long as I can remember, Ive been interested in how the digital world works and how users interact with websites. Website design is not only my career, its my passion, which is why I hope youll consider me for this great role on your team.
This has feeling and emotion a far cry from the dry form letter you thought you had to write.
As we said, HR staff and hiring managers have limited time and a lot of resumes to sort through. Dont put them to sleep. Create something theyll remember you by. It just might be the difference between your application ending up in the trash or the inbox of the boss.
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Have Someone Gut Check It
Have a friend take a look at your cover letter, and ask him or her two questions: Does this sell me as the best person for the job? and Does it get you excited? If the answer to either is no, or even slight hesitation, go back for another pass.
Finally, read this if youre looking to write a letter of intent instead of a cover letteryes, theres a difference.
Opening Paragraph Explaining Yourself
Typically, you should be aiming for 3-4 paragraphs and hopefully, your letter will fit on a single sheet of A4 paper. Given the brevity of your cover letter, its crucial that you get straight to business.
The fact that you have sent the letter and CV to the companys hiring manager means he already knows you are applying for the job so dont waste space by reiterating this point. Instead, you should look to immediately point out why you are the right candidate for the company.
This will instantly attract the attention of the reader and, assuming your letter is well written, it should save it from the bin which is the unfortunate fate of the vast majority of cover letters and CVs.
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Why Write A Cover Letter
If you’re serious about landing the job, a well-written cover letter gives you a chance to sell yourself to the employer in a narrative format, and explain why you are an ideal candidate. Taking the time to match your qualifications to the job can help you get selected for an interview.
Explaining why you’re an ideal candidate helps the hiring manager do their job of screening applicants, and may get your resume a closer look.
A cover letter also affords you the opportunity to highlight your strongest qualifications.
An effective, well-written, and customized cover letter will also make it clear that you are highly interested in the job. That’s because it shows the hiring manager that you want the job enough to take the time to go the extra distance.
Focus It On The Future
While your résumé is meant to be a lookback at your experience and where youve been, the cover letter should focus on the future and what you want to do, says Glickman. It can be helpful to think of it as the bridge between the past and the future that explains what you hope to do next and why. Because of the pandemic there is less of an expectation that youll be applying for a job that youve done before. There are millions of people who are making career changes voluntarily or involuntarily and need to pivot and rethink how their skillset relates to a different role or industry, says Glickman. You can use your cover letter to explain the shift youre making, perhaps from hospitality to marketing, for example. Think of it as an opportunity to sell your transferrable skills.
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Now Back To The Cover Letter Question
Sorry I get sidetracked easily! ?
Ive been a career professional since 2005. I also belong to career professional networks, regularly upgrade my skills and knowledge through courses and workshops and offer free content on various social media platforms.
Despite all of my experience, I can honestly say that there is not one answer when it comes to the ATS.
If you ask 10 different career professionals about whether or not the cover letter is assessed by the ATS, you will probably get 10 different answers. Seriously.
The reason for that is because there are hundreds of different ATS systems, and the technology is constantly changing.
Also, unless you are literally sitting beside the person using the ATS system and can see how it works from their perspective, you have no way of knowing how your cover letter fits into the equation.
Ask Someone To Review Your Cover Letter
Once you complete your cover letter, ask a trusted friend, mentor or previous coworker to look over it for you. Ensure the individual is capable of providing helpful advice on cover letters in your particular industry. Having an additional person look through your work increases the chances of identifying and solving any grammar issues.
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Relevant Achievements Throughout Your Cover Letter
Now youve set up your cover letter, its time to write the body text.
Listing your previous achievements is good, but its not enough for more competitive jobs in 2021. Instead, you need to provide numbers that prove you can get results for your new employer.
Finding this data doesnt have to be difficult.
For instance, if you were previously working in a customer service position, think about how many customers you served on an average day. A bullet point built with such information might look something like this:
- Served approx. 47 customers per day, remaining professional, courteous, and patient when dealing with each individual
Or if you were in an office role, you might focus on your output over a regular period of time:
- Produced 17 sales reports per week for our product portfolio
Including this data shows the hiring manager what you can achieve on the job. These numbers give them a glimpse at how your output will improve their companys performance, and whether youd be a good fit on their team.
Quantifying your accomplishments is especially crucial when writing a cover letter for an internal position, because the hiring manager is going to ask themself if youve been an asset to the company since you were hired.
Second Use A Memorable Introduction
In the introduction of your letter, you want to mention the job you are applying for and express your interest and enthusiasm. If possible, add a quick anecdote or a personalized sentiment in your introduction. Remember, the hiring manager has to read through multiple cover letters, so you want your letter to draw their attention.
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What Is The Purpose Of A Cover Letter
A cover letter introduces you to an employer through a personalized explanation of your qualifications and interest in a position. While a resume shares the technical details of your skills and work experience, a cover letter gives insight into your soft skills, attitude and motivations. Employers use cover letters to get a sense of how well each candidate would fit in with their company culture and use their experience to accomplish the requirements of a position. Strong cover letters provide a clear connection between your goals and a company’s values.
Explanations For Leaving Past Jobs That Sound Like Excuses
Any excuses may needlessly direct attention to less-positive chapters in your work history. Pointing out that you were recruited for a better job is fine, but there’s no need to mention that you were fired or had difficulties in previous positions. Keep your job application materials positive and focused on the future.
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Need Help Thats What Im Here For
Are you in the midst of a job search and not getting the results you want? Or, are you employed and not actively looking but want to get ready in case your situation changes and you need to launch a job search?
Dont get caught in the endless cycle of applying to jobs, hearing little to nothing, and becoming more frustrated.
I offer both Done-For-You and DIY options to help you overcome the obstacles and get you on the right track to accelerate your job landing success. You choose the level of service you feel you need that fits your budget.
Format Of A Cover Letter
First and foremost, a cover letter is a business letter, and you will want to follow those formatting conventions as much as possible.
While there are a number of cover letter templates available online, or through Microsoft Word, at no cost, there are still some basic formatting guidelines that will help you on your way:
- Use one-inch margins on all sides of the document
- Left-align all contents
- Pick a standard business font, like Times New Roman or Calibri, in size 11 or 12
- Use single spacing overall, and double spaces between paragraphs
- Dont indent your paragraphs
- If possible, include an inserted image of your actual signature in your closing, creating the visual impression of a signed document
- Save your cover letter as a PDF before submitting electronically. This preserves the layout, keeping a professional appearance regardless of the device on which the document is viewed
Taking these tips into consideration, it is still good to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to create a cover letter. The goal is simply to explore the story behind your resume through the vehicle of a professional document.
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