The Job Search

Cover Letter Tips: Keep Your Cool

Be professional

Above all, show your maturity and professionalism by avoiding these common cover letter vices:

  • Negativity
  • Profanity, slang or inappropriate sayings
  • Overselling, aggressiveness and gimmicky language
  • Using a passive voice and downplaying strengths
  • Making demeaning comments about old employers, co-workers or clients
  • Using the same letter for all job positions

You can stand out by staying positive, brief and relevant. Remember that the employer doesn’t owe you the job; you have to earn the right to be considered for it. By making your letter simple, straightforward and well written, you’ll have a good shot at landing an interview.

The cover letter is simply a tool to market you and your job skills. Presenting a cover letter that gives an accurate picture of your abilities will allow the potential employer to discover your strengths and determine if you’re a good fit for their opening.

Cover Letter Tips: Make It Short and Sweet

Keep it simple
The ideal length for most cover letters is two or three short paragraphs on one page. Most likely, if your cover letter is too long, it won’t get read. Your goal is to explain why you want the position in as few words as possible. This means that your wording should be easy to read and understand. By staying away from long, rambling paragraphs, you’ll keep the reader’s attention. Impress the recruiter with your qualifications, not your fancy writing.

To avoid seeming flashy, use a simple font in black or charocal. If you’re e-mailing your resume or posting it online use a sans serif font like Arial or Helvitica.

Pay special attention to punctuation and grammar as well. A recent survey revealed poor grammar as the top reason why employers ignore applicants’ cover letters. Keep in mind, your cover letter is a written introduction of yourself. What first impressions will you send to potential employers?

Cover Letter Tips: Target Your Message

Know who you’re writing to
Have you ever noticed how quickly hearing your name gets your attention? The same is true for employers who see their names on cover letters. The greeting is the first thing a reader will notice, so make sure it is written to the right person. Take the time to find the name of the employer, and spell it correctly when you address the letter. If you’ve met or talked with the hiring manager previously, make note of that in the introduction. Using “to whom it may concern” or “dear sir/madam” is too formal and impersonal.

Cover Letter Tips: Stick to the Basics

Remember that your cover letter should include three basic parts: an introduction paragraph, a qualifications paragraph and a closing. The introduction paragraph should tell the employer why the position interests you. What is it about the company that you like? Research the company to find its mission, basic goals and achievements. Explain how you fit into this culture, but keep it short!

The second paragraph should be a brief description of why you qualify for the job. Specify skills you have that are listed in the job description for the position. Don’t paraphrase your resume. Instead, focus on telling how your experience and career goals are relevant to the position.

In your closing, restate your interest in the position and your intent to follow up. Include your availability for an interview and give a date that you’ll call if you don’t hear from the employer. Taking the initiative to follow up will show that the position is important to you. Also, make sure your contact information is correct and easy to find.

5 Things Not to Say in a Job Interview

1. “I don’t like working with people.” Even if the job you’re applying for doesn’t involve working directly with customers, basic people skills are a necessity for virtually all jobs.

2. “When’s payday?” While you may be up to your ears in bills, asking about money too soon gives the impression that’s all you’re interested in.

3. “I hope I get this job. This is my sixth interview this week!” Showing enthusiasm is great, but if you give off a rejected vibe, interviewers will wonder if they should pass you over too.

4. “So, would you want to go out sometime?” Sure, the workplace can be a great place to meet people, but displaying eagerness to hook-up isn’t professional.

5. “How much vacation do I get?” This question makes it seem like you’re ready for a break before you even start. Wait until at least a second-interview to ask questions about benefits.

What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said or heard in an interview?