Tips on Writing a Good Cover Letter for Your Resume

Cover letters should be brief.

With a cover letter, you can get more context than you might get in a résumé.

Cover letters also are ideal for clearing up anything in a résumé that might confuse or concern recruiters.

Make sure every cover letter is error-free or your hard work could backfire.  Sloppiness can automatically eliminate an applicant from consideration. If there is a mistake in the cover letter the person’s résumé and credentials would have to be really outstanding to compensate, and many recruiters may not look past the cover letter to make that assessment. Factual, spelling and grammatical gaffes indicate “a lack of attention to detail.

And while mailing handwritten cover letters through the postal service may be a way to avoid this, recruiters say doing so is unlikely to win their favor anyway.

What’s more, even sending a well-crafted note this way, rather than via email, also may not be wise since doing so prevents recruiters from forwarding it to other decision makers.

Customize Your Cover Letter

Individualize. Yes, it takes a lot longer than sending out the same form letter over and over, but a well-written cover letter that’s obviously individualized to a specific opening is going to open doors when your resume alone might not have. These account for such a tiny fraction of applications that you’ll stand out and immediately go to the top of the pile. And they’ll give you an extra look, even if your resume isn’t stellar.

To make a favorable impression, hiring managers say job hunters should craft different letters for every application and tailor them to both the employer and position they’re targeting. One way to customize a cover letter is to reference an employer’s products or services or point out content on its Web site. Another is to comment on a trend within the organization’s industry. If you know the name of the hiring manager for the position or a human-resources manager at the firm, you should address him or her directly and—whenever possible—acknowledge something personal about the individual.

To customize a letter for a particular position, applicants should show how their backgrounds line up with the requirements outlined in the job description.

Cookie-cutter cover letters also can derail an applicant’s shot at landing an interview. Job hunters should further keep in mind that many employers use tracking software to store and share information about applicants and can therefore tell if someone submitted the same exact cover letter for more than one position.

Overqualified?

You should address being overqualified in your cover letter. If you don’t acknowledge being overqualified, the employer will be afraid that you’ll be bored, that you don’t understand the position, that the salary will be too low for you. They need to hear things like: “At this stage in my career, having a job I enjoy is more important to me than salary. I have no problem earning less than I have in the past.” Or, “I want to move into this field, and I know that I need to start at a lower level in order to do that.” Or, “I wouldn’t take a job I’m not excited about.”

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