I’ve seen some truly horrendous cover letters. Awful ones. Ones that make me want to lather it with ketchup and feed it to a stray dog.
Here are some tips from my experiences as a hiring manager on writing an effective cover letter.
- DO: Be polite and respectful
- DON’T: Be arrogant and demanding
Some hiring managers see hundreds of cover letters a week. If you start off with, “Give me a job, I’m the best in the industry,” you’re going to be the best crumpled-up cover letter in the trash can.
- DO: Highlight notable achievements in previous roles
- DON’T: Repeat what’s on your resume
The cover letter is a place to go into a little more detail about a previous job. If there was an especially relevant accomplishment, write about it and provide some extra details.
- DO: Personalize the letter to the company
- DON’T: Use a generic template
Some hiring managers are impressed with candidates who’ve done their research about their company. Generic cover letter templates usually sound dry and, well, generic too.
- DO: Explain why you’re qualified for the role
- DON’T: Explain why you want to work for the company
This might be contrary to what you might think, but it’s already obvious that you want to work for the company. So don’t waste the hiring manager’s time explaining that. Instead, explain why you’re a good match for the role without being overly arrogant.
- DO: Be accurate
- DON’T: Lie
Hiring managers often ask questions about the information you put in your cover letter (or resume). If you lie, you’re going to get caught. Some background checks are more thorough than you think.
- DO: Keep it concise
- DON’T: Write a novel
Since hiring managers see so many cover letters, a long one is a sure way of getting tossed aside. Don’t write a one-liner, but don’t write a ten-pager either.
In short, a cover letter is a way to explain why you’re qualified by providing some details about specific accomplishments you’ve made, without repeating what is already in your resume.