Cover Letter Tip #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 are really interested in a position, exhaust all avenues for finding a contact name before going generic. The odds are that if you go through the trouble of finding the right person to whom to address your cover letter, you will stand out from other applicants, most of whom will simply stick to the generic.
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".
Cover Letter Tip #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.
Cover Letter Tip #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.
Cover Letter Tip #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 by showing that you have researched the company. 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.
Cover Letter Tip #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 cliches 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.
Cover Letter Tip #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.
Cover Letter Tip #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.
Cover Letter Tip #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 well-written cover letter can ignite the interest of the recruiter to go to your resume to seek more details about your application.
Cover Letter Tip #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.
Cover Letter Tip #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 him or her reach his or her own conclusions.
Cover Letter Tip #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 employment dates, etc. These "negatives" are best delivered in person during the interview where you will be in position to fully explain yourself.
Cover Letter Tip #12: Keep the Tone and Content Professional
Cover Letter Tip #13: Be Clear, Concise, and Focused
Avoid over-polite or old-fashioned language, such as hitherto, forthwith, and furthermore.
Cover Letter Tip #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 will provide.
Cover Letter Tip #15: Make Sure That the Format Is Easy on the Reviewer's Eyes
It should be easy to scan the letter and have a logical progression. Keep in mind that the recruiter may have hundreds (if not thousands) of cover letters and resumes to look at.
Cover Letter Tip #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.
Cover Letter Tip #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.
Cover Letter Tip #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 him or her taking the time to review your application.
Cover Letter Tip #19: End With a Call to Action
Ask the employer to call or email you instead of saying that you will follow-up. You should still follow-up with a call or via e-mail within a week or two. If you decide to indicate in your letter that you will call, make sure you do.
Cover Letter Tip #20: Make Yourself Available and Tell Employers How to Reach You
Provide a phone number that will be answered by either a person or a voicemail. If possible, also provide an e-mail.
Cover Letter Tip #21: Proofread
Make sure that your letter is grammatically correct and without typographical errors. Double-check that the letter corresponds with the right job you are applying to and the resume, especially when you are applying for many positions.
Cover Letter Tip #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 in your cover letter or the specifics of the job posting.