By Barbara Safani
The cover letter should be part of your presentation to a hiring manager whenever you apply for a job. Through the cover letter you can “speak” directly to the hiring manager and create a more tailored presentation of your background to better prove why you are well-suited for their open position. Generally cover letters should be three or four paragraphs long and no more than one page.
Here are seven things you should do when you write a cover letter.
- Create a professional business letter format. Include your name and contact information at the top of the letter and match the style and font used on your resume. Stick to traditional fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, and Tahoma.
- Address the letter to a specific person when possible. It is always better to address the letter to a specific person. If no name is listed on the posting, try calling the main number of the company to find out who the contact is or ask someone in the human resources department. You won’t always be able to uncover a specific name; but when you do, some hiring authorities will be impressed by the extra effort you took to find out who the appropriate contact is.
- State the reason why you are sending the letter. If you are applying to the job via a job board or company website, be sure to reference where you saw the job posted and include the job title and job number if there is one. If a friend or colleague referred you for the position be sure to mention that in the first paragraph of the letter. Referred candidates frequently stand a better chance of getting past the initial screening process.
- Discuss a current important business condition that is relevant to your reader. Let the hiring manager know that you understand their industry, competitors, and business problems. Making this connection helps elevate your candidacy and builds trust with the reader.
- Explain how your skills match the job requirements. Review the job posting closely and match as many of your job skills to the requirement as possible. You can even create a two-column format that lists the company’s job requirements on one side and your skills on the other side to make the match more obvious.
- Ask for the interview. Be proactive in your letter and let the hiring manager know you plan to follow up to discuss next steps in the interview process.
- Proofread the letter. Typos on a cover letter are just as bad as typos on a resume. After you write the letter, proofread it a few times, put it down, and then proofread it again later. If possible ask someone else to proofread it as well.
Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, has over fifteen years of experience in career management, recruiting, executive coaching, and organizational development.