Cover Letters 101

February 10, 2015 by edotgdot

You need a résumé. What about a cover letter?
Some employers don’t require a letter, some do, and sometimes it is optional. Providing a cover letter, even when it isn’t required, shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile. It also shows that you’ve put thought into your application. Whether you like it or not, cover letters can make or break you.
For one, cover letters highlight your communication skills. They also provide the opportunity to explain your story, offer your understanding of the industry, or explain your recent career change. So why wouldn’t you capitalize on this?
There are dozens of lists out there that explain the components of a standout cover letter, so here’s a narrowed down compilation of the most common Do’s and Don’ts:

Don’t repeat your résumé in your cover letter. You’re lucky enough if the employer takes more than a minute to review your experience and qualifications once. Making them read that information twice? You’ve already bored them.


Do your homework. Nowadays, simply having a stock cover letter is not enough to get by. Your cover letter should be tailored to the employer, showing them that you did your homework. It gives them a reason to consider your application. So if you want to make a good impression, create a unique cover letter that shows your personality and your unique strengths.


Do use your voice! You should use your natural voice when composing your letter. If a human is reading it, a human should write it. Gone are the days when you need to sound self-important. Avoid clichés like detail-oriented leader and seasoned professional.


Do be creative! You want to give the employer a reason to remember you, and you can do that by drawing them in with a clever introduction and then finishing strong as well. For example, you can start with a thought-provoking quotation or your philosophy on how to approach business. Show them that you understand their needs. You can end with an offer to create a work sample or invite them to see your webinar.


Do keep it short and sweet. Employers are busy and are likely sifting through hundreds of applications. For this reason, a cover letter should only be around half a page to a page long. Break it out into bullets, expanding on the requirements listed in the job description.


Do show. You don’t want to say, “I believe I am perfect for this position” or anything of the sort. Your belief is not going to get you the job. Instead, show the employer how you’re the perfect candidate. Tell them a story about a recent problem you solved or a recent campaign you led.

Here are helpful articles:

Five Cover Letter Cliches That Make Employers Cringe

Six Secrets to Writing a Great Cover Letter

Four Ways to Make Writing Cover Letters Suck Less

Five Ways Your Cover Letter Lost You the Job