If you are in the middle of a job search, you are probably used to writing a lot of cover letters. And even though practice does make perfect, you may still be confused about the best way to approach this important document.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about cover letters – their purpose, the best way to write one, etc. So we’re here to offer some clarity by discussing cover letter myths and tips.
Myth #1: Your cover letter should be short.
Although your cover letter should use concise, clear language, it should not necessarily be short in length. A paragraph certainly will not do. If you want to grab an employer’s attention and get your point across, you will need to convey as much persuasive information as possible in an economical space. Therefore:
Tip #1: Like a resume, a cover letter should be one page in length.
This should give you enough room to make a proper case for yourself, while also showing that you have enough discipline to keep it relatively succinct.
Myth #2: Your cover letter should summarize your resume.
The purpose of your cover letter is to put your resume into context and explain how your skills and experience are relevant to the open position. So it should reference the information on your resume, but expand on it. You should include a short, illustrative anecdote if possible and:
Tip #2: Reference skills/experience mentioned in the job description.
Use the requirements listed for the position to which you’re applying. Directly state how your experience fills those requirements, as well as those elements that set you apart.
Myth #3: It is okay to use a generic greeting.
Though you may think it’s harmless to address a cover letter, “To Whom It May Concern,” or, “Dear Hiring Manager,” it sends a negative message. It shows that you did not put in the effort to find out who the hiring manager for this position is. Whenever you can go the extra mile during a job search you should absolutely take that opportunity to stand out. That being said, finding the name of a hiring manager is not very difficult in the age of LinkedIn. So:
Tip #3: Always do your research.
This is true throughout the job hunting process, but especially during first contact with a potential employer. Leave a good first impression by showing that you’re detail oriented, resourceful, and thorough.
Myth #4: You do not need a cover letter, as employers don’t read them.
Your employer will absolutely read your cover letter. In fact, many consider it to be just as important as your resume. This is your chance to explain why you are the person for this open position. Maximize that potential and show this potential employer why they simply need to bring you in for an interview. In fact, do not assume that no one will read your cover letter; assume the opposite:
Tip #4: Imagine that your cover letter is a public document.
While this is absolutely not the case, treat your cover letter like it’s a press release promoting yourself. You want to show the world – or maybe just one employer – that you are the right person for this job. This document can do that, so acknowledge it’s importance as you write it.
Myth #5: A cover letter is about the candidate.
While the candidate may be the subject of the cover letter, the truth is that the content is about the employer. The employer wants to know what the candidate can do for them. How can they impact the bottom line? Can they do what is required of them in this position? Will they fit into the corporate culture? So while you are talking about yourself:
Tip #5: Always remember that it’s about the employer’s needs.
While it’s great to list and explain your accomplishments, always make it apparent that those accomplishments will translate to the position and employer you’re applying to. Connecting those dots is the whole point of the document.
If you’d like more help developing your cover letter, take a look at our cover letter advice. And while you’re searching for a new position, browse our job listings. If you choose to apply, one of our expert recruitment consultants will be in touch with relevant opportunities.