Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Write a Cover Letter

Resume Tips
From time to time, a friend or family member will ask for help with their job search.  As a full-time recruiter, I have seen my fair share of cover letters.  There are no hard and fast rules, however here are some tips to keep top of mind as you pen your cover letter:

1.  Please do not use common phrases like "great written and communication skills," "hard worker or team player," "great leadership or management experience" etc.  These mean absolutely nothing to me.  Everyone says them and they are even harder to quantify.  If you want to address these, then please list specific situations, accomplishments, statistics, or certifications related to these.
2.  Do some research on the company.  If you can, find the actual name of the hiring manager, HR person or recruiter.  Always apply via the online portal to show respect for the process, but hedge your bets by emailing your resume to the person directly if you can.  Leverage LinkedIn's advanced search for this.  With a Google search you have a good chance of figuring out the email address algorithm.
3.  Remember that the point of the cover letter is to get someone to open your resume.  Remember that at the end of the day, you either have the right experience or you do not.  A perfectly formatted and written cover letter will not change that.  Also there is no need to make it a separate attachment.  Go ahead and paste your letter into the body of your email.
4.  Use bullet points and bold where applicable.  I love an "airy" cover letter that I can scan very quickly.  Be eloquent but to the point.  Have others read your cover letter to check your grammar and provide some feedback.
5.  Be creative and try to let your personality shine through.  If you can, drop an employee's name or a specific story about yourself framing why you are excited about the opportunity and/or company.

Try not to over think it.  At the end of the day, your resume should list all the necessary qualifications for the job.  The cover letter should only provide supplemental information not found in your resume, like the fact that you are moving to San Diego in the next 2 weeks or that you have been a fan of the company ever since [insert story here].  Good luck!

Have some tips that I missed?  Please feel free to comment and share.  I'd love to hear what has worked for you.

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