Did you know that your cover letter is actually more important than your resume? If it’s dull or doesn’t talk about why you are qualified for the job, chances are, your resume won’t even get read.
Think of your cover letter as a bouncer at your local club . . . in order to get to the good stuff, you got to get through the door.
So, how do you do that? You’re so lucky that you have us around to tell you! Read on . . .
- Find out who will be reviewing your application so you’ll know who to address the letter to. “To Whomever It May Concern” is over-used and not at all fun. Addressing your letter to a real person shows you took initiative (you can always call the company to find out!) and puts the reader in a much more relaxed frame of mind. Trust us, you don’t want someone stiff reading about you.
- Be a bit of a tease. Make sure to address the qualifications noted in the job ad, but don’t cover every single detail. Here’s an example: “As you’ll see in my resume, I was responsible for many customer-service tasks during the time I worked at Moos Ice Cream.” Done correctly, you’ll give enough information so that your maybe-boss considers you a valuable candidate and wants to look at your resume.
- Use numbers. Saying you were the main person responsible for selling tickets at the local amusement park is fine. Saying that you were solely responsible for selling over 300 tickets each day brings your experience to a whole new level. Talking up a babysitting job? Make sure you include the ages of the kids. Pet-sitting? Talk about how many hours each week you were in charge. Numbers show importance.
- Personalize your cover letter. Show that your letter is unique to the job. Applying to a restaurant? Maybe you could talk about how much you enjoy being a diner there. A local tourism site? Talk about your experiences at the site and how you would very much love to be a part of the team. A retail store? Say something about one of their unique products. The point is to show (a) you did your homework and (b) you would actually enjoy working for them.
- Don’t be long-winded. Aim for a short introduction paragraph, followed by 2-3 short body paragraphs, and a simple thank-you closing directing the reader to your resume and providing your contact details for a follow-up interview. Oh! That reminds us—do include your contact details, even if your cover letter is attached to your resume. Sometimes, the two documents become separated.
- While it’s tempting to show off that you know how to use a thesaurus, keep the language simple. Most likely, your letter will be skimmed, not analyzed in fine detail, so, unless you are applying for a writer position where you may want to show off your wordsmith skills, focus on what you want to say and not on the fanciest way possible to say it.
It’s quite likely these days that you’ll be emailing your application. A helpful tip is to include both your cover letter and your resume as attached PDF files (not doc.), so that the formatting doesn’t go all wonky when opened on someone else’s computer.
Also, since it’s hard enough to write one letter, let alone two, save yourself some trouble and simply copy/paste your cover letter into the body of the email. There’s a high chance that your email will be routed to an admin person who will simply print off the attachments. If, by chance, your email is read by “the boss” . . . it’s still okay. So that your future-employer doesn’t think you’re dumb and posted your letter twice, you can say something like, “I’ve attached a formatted pdf version of this cover letter as a separate attachment for your convenience.” There, you’re covered (pun intended!)
Following these tips should help you create a cover letter that any bouncher, er, we mean employer would be happy to read. Happy writing!
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