22 Practical Tips to Write an Effective Cover Letter

by Checkmate Resume

Cover Letter

Cover letter writing takes time to master. Luckily for you, we've compiled 22 practical tips that will help you write an effective cover letter in no time! Here they are:

1) Address Your Cover Letter to a Specific Person

If the name of the contact person is not provided in the job posting, call the company or check its website to find out to whom you should address your application. If you decide to call the company to obtain the contact person's name, make sure to spell the name correctly.

If you cannot find the contact person's name, we suggest that you address your application to the "Hiring Manager," "College Recruiter," "Selection Committee," etc. Avoid using "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom it May Concern."

2) Explain Why You Are Sending the Cover Letter

Specify what position you are applying for in the subject line at the top of your cover letter. A company may have many openings and the recruiter will appreciate this gesture.

3) Specify How You Learned About the Position or Organization

Specify how you became aware of the opening, i.e. through a job posting or through a recommendation, etc.

4) Customize Your Cover Letter to Each Position You Are Applying To

Most generic or canned cover letters lead to failure. Even if you are applying to many positions, take the time to tailor your cover letters. Write something that will make your prospective employer sit back and take note that you showed true interest.

Keep your goal and their goal in mind. Find out what the company needs and describe how you can help or why you would be a strong addition.

5) State the Elements of Your Background That Are Relevant to the Position

Highlight the skills that are directly relevant to the job requirements and include short descriptions of your achievements. Avoid empty clichés such as "I am a self-starter" or "I am a people person." If you cannot explain or provide specific examples of those phrases, avoid including them altogether. 

Look at the job from the recruiter's point of view and assess which of the requirements are most important. Review your skills, experience, education, and personal characteristics and pull out the elements that strongly match the requirements of the job. These are the aspects of your experience that you should aim to highlight in your cover letter. Any aspect of your experience that is not directly relevant to one of the top requirements should not be referred to in your cover letter as it will distract the recruiter's attention from your more relevant qualifications.

6) Provide or Refer to Any Information Specifically Requested

If the job posting asked for specific information, make sure to provide that information in your cover letter, if it is not already provided in your resume.

7) Market Yourself

The cover letter is the one chance you have to market yourself to an employer. Think of your cover letter as a sales letter. The only purpose of your cover letter is to land you a job interview. That's the bottom line. 

8) Increase a Potential Employer's Interest in Your Resume

A poorly written cover letter can dissuade a recruiter from taking your resume seriously. On the other hand, a great cover letter can ignite the interest of the recruiter to go to your resume to seek more details about your application.

9) Keep to the Facts

Do not exaggerate. Do not think of your cover letter as an autobiography. The purpose of the cover letter should be one thing: to demonstrate that you meet or exceed the requirements listed in the job description. Additional information beyond this can be counterproductive and dilute the core purpose of your cover letter.

10) Let the Employer Judge Your Skills

State your skills and qualifications, but don't tell the employer that you are the best person for the job. It can appear arrogant and presumptuous. Impress the employer with your skills and let them reach their own conclusions.

11) Phrase Your Letter Positively

Avoid mentioning your weaknesses. Aim to sell yourself with positive citations. Any phrase that might suggest a weakness will go against you.

A cover letter is not the place to explain why you left or are leaving an employer, why there are gaps in your work history, etc. These "negatives" are best delivered in person during the interview where you will be in position to fully explain yourself.

12) Keep the Tone and Content Professional

Inspire confidence.

13) Be Clear, Concise, and Focused

Avoid over-polite or old-fashioned language, such as hitherto, forthwith, and furthermore.

14) Avoid Discussing Salary

Even if the position specifically asks for your salary history, providing this information will more likely cost you a job than not. If the job ad specifically says that resumes without a salary history will not be considered, give a historical salary range and state that your salary requirements are flexible based on the opportunities the position provides.

15) Make Sure That the Format Is Easy on the Reviewer's Eyes

It should be easy for the reader to scan through your cover letter. Keep in mind that the recruiter may have dozens of cover letters and resumes to look at.

16) Don't Repeat Your Resume

Your cover letter is not a summary of your resume. It is an introduction of yourself and an argument for why you are the best candidate for the specific position. 

17) Be Different

Almost every candidate promises "excellent written and verbal communication skills" and the ability to "think outside the box" and "juggle multiple tasks." The point here is to be different and stand out. The goal is to demonstrate your written communication skills by writing a good cover letter

18) End Your Letter on a Positive Note

Conclude by thanking the reader for his or her consideration in order to express your gratitude for them taking the time to review your application.

19) End With a Call to Action

End your cover letter on a proactive note. If you decide to indicate in your letter that you will call, make sure you do.

20) Make Yourself Available and Tell the Employer How to Reach You

Provide a phone number that will be answered by either a person or a voicemail. If possible, also provide an email.

21) Proofread

Make sure that your cover letter is grammatically correct and without typographical errors.

22) Keep Copies of Everything You Send

You never know when the recruiter will contact you. It may be next week or next month. If you get a call a month or more later, you probably will not remember what you wrote or the specifics of the job posting.

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