At times, writing a cover letter can seem like an impossible task. After all, it's a daunting challenge to articulately word why you are best suited for a position on a single piece of paper. While resumes are often crafted and edited over weeks or months, a cover letter is a personal statement directed at the person who's potentially hiring you for a specific position. No wonder it seems like such a tall order to separate yourself from the herd. Hiring managers likely have distinct preferences both in regard to how you word your cover letter and your previous experience. However, there are several basic protocols that you should adhere to whenever writing a cover letter. Here is a quick list of do's and don'ts for crafting a good cover letter:
Do know who you're addressing
The Internet has made it possible to seek out almost anyone in a specific organization. With that said, "To Whom It May Concern" simply doesn't cut it anymore. Not only does it sound impersonal, but it also demonstrates a lack of research and interest in the position. Job descriptions often list to whom you'd be directly reporting or who will be reading through the applications. Address your cover letter to this individual. If the position of the person is listed but not a specific name, browse the company's website and search through the staff directory to find out to whom you should address your cover letter.
Don't repeat your resume
It's really easy to fall into the trap of regurgitating your resume. While these two documents are certainly related, a cover letter is your chance to introduce yourself and emphasize specific accomplishments. Use your cover letter to go into further detail about your professional experiences and show off your individuality.
Even if your resume stands out, you might be discounted for something as little as one spelling or grammatical mistake on your cover letter. Everyone is susceptible to error, but mistakes found in these documents might signify a lack of attention to detail. Proofread your cover letter several times to ensure there are no obvious mistakes. Once you've given it a few reads, ask a close friend or family member to read it as well. It's always good to get another set of eyes on your cover letter, because other readers may catch an error you overlooked.
Don't dilly dally
Make sure your cover letter gets to the point. Don't spend a lot of time funneling toward the point you want to convey. Cover letters are short and precise, and therefore require direct language that commands attention.
Do personalize your cover letter
A cover letter should not be uniform. Every position for which you apply requires different skills and experience. It's imperative to emphasize the aspects of your professional life that make you the right fit for the job. Hiring managers have a knack for identifying cover letters that are mass produced. These form cover letters are usually pretty obvious anyway, because they tend to be broad and omit job-specific language. Do yourself a favor and write unique cover letters for each position to which you apply.
Don't rely solely on a template
Those writing their first cover letter might be tempted to follow an online template. While these resources can be a good starting point, it's important to remember a singular format doesn't necessarily work for everyone. Format your cover letter in the way that most effectively showcases your experience, creativity and professionalism.
Don't forget to follow up
Sometimes a great cover letter and resume will only get you so far. The fact is hiring managers are tasked with sorting through hundreds of applicants, and your materials can potentially get lost in the tumult. Make sure to follow up regularly and reemphasize your interest in the position.