How to Write Cover Letters--Do's and Don'ts

How to Write Cover Letters CCU CAGSA short time ago, we posted a blog with 10 resume tips to follow so you are up-to-date and have the information and the organization of that information that employers are looking for in a job applicant. For instance, we mentioned that "objectives" are no longer being used, and the phrase, "references available upon request" is no longer necessary.

Times have changed and to keep up (and stay ahead) of a very competitive marketplace, you have to have the "it" factor--meaning, you have to be current, you have to be contemporary and your resume and cover letters must not look and sound as though they're from the 1990's. So, now that you've dusted off your resume and made that all current and ready for an employer's discerning glare, you are finally ready to hear the latest news about how to write cover letters in this modern world.

In this world of electronic communications, hiring managers typically don't want a traditional cover letter. Instead, since most jobs are applied for online, many employers ask that you submit a short paragraph (or two) in your email highlighting your skills and why you should be considered for this job. These days, supervisors are getting so many resumes for each position that having to read an additional full-length cover letter is simply painful. When you apply for a job via email, you will attach your resume and write a few sentences about your qualifications and desire for that particular job. The consensus amongst experts is that a cover letter certainly can't hurt, but try to reserve sending one to only those who specifically ask for one. A well-written, succinct cover letter may help you stand out from the crowd.

The staff and faculty at Colorado Christian University offers some job-seeking advice to give you an upper hand in this very competitive, modern workforce.

What to Avoid When Writing Cover Letters

If a job for which you're applying requires a cover letters, there are certain things you want to avoid to ensure your cover letter does not end up in the hiring manager's trash. First, as mentioned above, be succinct. No one has time to read a long, meandering cover letter that goes on and on, paragraph after paragraph. Cut to the chase right away and explain why you're deserving of an interview. Don't be boring and don't be long winded; be provocative and grab your reader's attention in the first or second sentence. Be passionate about the job you're applying for and don't repeat information that's in your resume like your name, work experience and education.

Don't go on and on about how wonderful the company is. Prove that you you've done your research about the company but don't suck up by gushing about how successful the company is or how many accolades they've received. They know that, already. Don't beg for a job. There's a difference between being passionate about the job and pleading for a chance to prove you're the best man or woman for the job.

Also, don't sell yourself short and be willing to accept a job that is way beneath your skill level. That will make you appear desperate. If you're applying for a job writing features for a newspaper, don't be willing to start out in the mail room or answering phones. Be careful of sarcasm and humor. Even if you know someone who works there don't write a cover letter as if you were writing to a friend. Be professional and show deference and respect to the supervisor.

What to Include in a Cover Letter

When writing your cover letter, spotlight the important skills and experience that you possess that are mentioned in the job description. By doing this, you will indicate that you not only understand what would be required to do the job, but that you can hit the ground running and have transferable skills.

  • State the top 2-4 reasons why you're right for the position.
  • Research the contact person instead of writing "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Hiring Manager" as this indicates you didn't even take the time to look into who is in charge of hiring. If you can't find that information on the company website, in the job listing or on the LinkedIn or Facebook profile, then call and ask the receptionist to whom you should direct the letter.
  • Research the company.  If their values, product, or even location are not right for you don't waste your time or theirs.  Use  your introductory paragraph to show that you’ve taken the time to do some investigating about the company.
  • Instead of opening  with "I’m responding to your posting..",  personalize the letter by mentioning something specific about the company such as their mission statement or company goals.
  • Make sure there are no errors in your cover letter, and your cover letter should always be written for that particular job. Don't use a template cover letter and fill in the blanks for each different position. The hiring manager will spot a generic cover letter in seconds.
  • Finish off by including you are available for interview at the hiring manager's earliest possible convenience. Include when you can begin work if there's no set date in the ad. You should also welcome the prospective employer to contact you if they need any further information. They should have your contact details from the top of the letter, and on your resume. Sign off and, if you are printing the letter out rather than emailing it, sign it for an added level of professionalism.
  • The cover letter is an indication of you, so if your letter has no clear organization and rambles on ,the reader may believe you lack the discipline and organizational skills that are crucial in modern workplaces. The cover letter, like your resume, is the first impression your prospective employer will have of you. There is no second chance when it comes to cover letters and resumes.
  • If a job does not indicate a cover letter is necessary, write a brief email with your resume attached. Never, ever send an email with just your resume attached. It most likely won't even be read.

To learn more about applying for jobs in the modern workforce, please contact the Career Development at CCU whether you're just starting the job-finding process, are seeking advancement in your career or just need advice concerning achieving career goals.

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