6 tips for writing a winning cover letter
April 5, 2010, 11:29am PDT | Length: 00:02:50
Although your resume is the way you show a potential employer all of your job experience, a cover letter is really your first introduction.
Toni Bowers: A cover letter is your introduction to potential employers. It's a way to summarize your job qualifications and explain how they will benefit the company to which you are applying. Here are 6 tips for nailing the cover letter:
- Keep the letter to one page. If you go over that limit, tighten things up and get rid of some of the fluff. We LOVE to talk about ourselves. The problem is, not everyone has time to listen.
- Avoid empty language like "I believe my qualifications and experience match this position." Because you know what? EVERYBODY says that. Instead, be specific and concrete about what you can bring to the position. For example: "I believe my in depth knowledge of SQL Server will help you with your data management needs."
- Include information or facts related to the job, industry, or the specific company you're applying to. That way, the potential employer knows that you're not just cookie-cutting these cover letters. Use parts of the job description itself. If it asks for specific skills, be sure to include those in your cover letter.
- Avoid using passive voice statements like "this project gave me the opportunity to..." OWN what you've accomplished. You don't want to sound like everything happened TO you, like you were just an innocent bystander. Make yourself the active subject of every sentence (like, "During this project, I developed an intricate knowledge of server migrations.")
- Don't focus on what YOU want in the cover letter. Focus on what you can do for the COMPANY. Because, think about it, EVERYBODY wants to "grow with a company." But why would a company hire you so you can meet your personal goals?
- PROOFREAD your cover letter. And then get someone else to proofread it. Companies aren't necessarily looking for professional writing experience, but they are going to be looking for someone with an attention to detail and the ability to absorb some of the most common rules of grammar.
And, on that last topic, and in my crusade to abolish bonehead grammatical errors in my lifetime, here's a mini-lesson:
This word? -- "your" -- is not short for "you are."
This word is -- you're. You heard me.
That's it for today. See you next time!