Recently two of my very good friends reached out to me for help with their cover letters. I told them to send me what they’d written thus far and I’d be more than happy to read through and offer my suggestions and feedback. I noticed a few mistakes that consistently occurred in both cover letter drafts and realized that these were the same mistakes I’ve seen having served on several hiring committees. So I figured a post would be fitting to kinda get the word out there on some of the standard rules of cover letter writing. I’m no English teacher or job searching and resume/ cover letter writing aficionado by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just a seasoned vet in the job search game and swindle and I’m here to share what I’ve learned along the way.
- State your Business- The first thing you want to do is formally and directly state the purpose of your letter. Your first sentence should let the reader know the specific position that you are applying for. You’ll then want to follow that sentence by succinctly stating or listing what skills and experiences make you eligible to be considered for that position. Hiring managers and committees are reading through tons and tons of letters and resumes. Get straight to the point by honing in on the job you want and telling them exactly why they should give it to you.
- Show Don’t Tell- The purpose of the cover letter is to complement and give narrative to your resume. Your resume already lists your credentials; skills and experiences, so your letter should explain just how those things match up with what the company/organization needs. Discuss your present or previous position, briefly talk about your roles and responsibilities and then pair those with activities listed in the description of the position that you’re applying for. An example of how to do this would be a phrase like, “My experience in customer service and my abilities to multi task would no doubt contribute in greeting guests and visitors and coordinating guests to the production office at XYZ Television Studios.”
- Use Active Voice- Stay away from phrases like I feel that I am, or I could be. Active voice is a quality of professional writing we all need to be comfortable in using. Take this sentence as an example “ I feel as though my academic and professional experiences make me eligible for the position of strip club/pole dancing evaluator.” The writer of this sentence comes off timid, unsure and hoping the hiring manager will give him/her a shot at a dream job. The same information presented using the active voice can completely change the position of the writer from novice to professional. For example “I am confident that my academic and professional position qualifies me for the position strip club/pole dancing evaluator.” If you know that you can do this job. Be sure of yourself, confidence is the accessory we all need not leave home without.
- Do Your Dance and Get Off The Stage- Now is not the time for elaborate prose. Say what you have to say in a comprehensive and polished manner and wrap your letter up. Letters that are more than a page or written in 10pt font are daunting to read and can get your letter glazed over and set aside. Write a great letter, you’ll get the interview and THEN you’ll have plenty of time to be deep, intuitive and prolific.
- Proofreading is Fundamental- Hunny, read, reread and read your cover letter again. Then send it to your mentors, literate friends and family members and even the writing or career services center at your school or alma mater for further review and feedback. Spelling and Grammar can make or break a great letter. Homonym misplacement, excessive use of commas, run on sentences, etc. can leave your reader confused, underwhelmed and just plain drained. Don’t let it happen to you. Read your letter out loud to yourself and to others to make sure you phrasing and grammar are correct. Hell, if you can’t get ANYBODY to help you, email it to me. If you catch me on a good day I can usually find a free few minutes to be of assistance.
I hope this helps. The job market is real and we here at the GlamNERDS are all about standing out for the right reasons. Get your life!
Till Next Time,