There’s no underestimating the power of a good cover letter. This is your initial contact with a potential job and the spot where the decision to go on to the resume is made. You want to avoid making common “cover letter mistakes” by doing your homework so that your cover letter sparks interest in the reader and leads to reading the resume and getting an interview.
- Before you write your cover letter, figure out who it will be addressed to. Get a name and a job title, if possible. Addressing your letter “to whom it may concern” isn’t going to get you very far because it is generic and shows you didn’t bother to research the company. Having the correct name demonstrates your interest in the organization and your ability to research.
- Make a simple outline of your planned cover letter. Three headings with the facts beneath: introduction, position, closing. Or, to put it another way, who you are, why you are writing, and what you are asking them to do.
- Write your rough draft. Be business-like and state your facts in three paragraphs: the first will tell them who you are, how you heard about the job, and any contacts names. The second paragraph says which position you are applying for and why you are a good candidate for the job. If you have a few specific reasons, you can put them into bullet points, but be brief. The closing paragraph asks for an interview, thanks them, and promises to follow up within a week (only promise what you will do!)
- Polish your cover letter until it shines. Here’s where it helps to have someone else read it, preferably someone with good proofreading skills and an understanding of business letters.
Be realistic about your writing skills. It’s common knowledge that secretaries can often write better letters than their executive bosses can. That’s why a good secretary is worth a good salary. If you are not great at writing, the investment in a professionally written cover letter may be your best option. The experience you gain from working with a professional writer in developing a cover letter will improve your own skills and increase your chances of getting your resume read and an interview offered.