A recent poll says 90% of executive level hiring managers find cover letters important for evaluating candidates. Another survey shows 40% of HR managers believe that a good cover letter would help an applicant stand out. Even if a cover letter isn’t required, you should always include one with your resume unless specifically asked not to. Here are some “don’ts” to watch out for when drafting your letter.
DON’T Write Too Much
This study shows that a majority of employers prefer a half page cover letter. Others say the shorter, the better. Bottom line: your letter should be clear and concise, straight to the point. Outline why you are a great fit for the position and show how you are the best candidate.
It’s even more important to keep an email cover letter short. It’s even more important to be concise. Keep it to two paragraphs and conclude with a professional closing.
DON’T Skip the Formatting
The appropriate format is critical for making a good impression. Choose a professional, simple font (like Times New Roman or Arial) in 12-point size. Don’t use script or novelty fonts. All text should be aligned to the left. Leave space between paragraphs and keep as much white space on the paper as you can.
DON’T Be Too Casual
Applying for a job is not a time to relax your manners. Most word processing programs have templates for business letters, or you can find online resources. For a hard copy business letter, you should include:
- Company name and address in block format.
- Use the hiring manager’s name whenever possible.
- A short paragraph about who you are as it relates to the business world.
- Your Qualifications. Keep it short! Highlight your most relevant experience and describe how you will apply what you’ve learned in this position.
- Note that you can provide references upon request. (Keep your references in a separate document so you are prepared.)
- Next Steps and Closing. Tell how you will follow up and finish your letter with an appropriate closing statement like “Best” or “Regards.”
- Signature (include your contact information in your signature when sending an email letter)
For an email cover letter, there is no need for a heading or signature, but the subject line short and to the point. Try using the position and your name; for example: Marketing Specialist—Katie Rose.
DON’T Be a Robot
While your cover letter should be a professional letter and somewhat formal in tone, you do want your personality to shine through. Add some personal experiences that could assist you in your job. Were you a volunteer for an organization doing similar work? Describe how that makes you a stronger candidate for the position you are applying for.
DON’T Send the Same Letter to Every Employer
Just like resumes, cover letters should be tailored for each position you apply for. Hiring managers can tell when you send them a form letter that is generic and has no details. Demonstrate your research of the company and the position in each cover letter. For example, “I appreciate Company’s dedication to its mission to create jobs for unemployed adults. In my experience volunteering at Organization, I learned to identify with and assist them in their job search.” Being specific shows your attention to detail and your drive to be a part of the company.
DON’T Send Without Proofreading
Almost 60% of hiring managers will reject a candidate because of poor grammar or a typo. Even the smallest error shows that the candidate is not attentive to detail and hasn’t taken the time to proofread. If you don’t take the time to make sure this critical document is error-free, it suggests that you won’t take the time to make sure your future work is, either.
Review your resume at least 3 times to make sure there are no mistakes. Don’t rely on spellcheck! Often a word or phrase may still make sense even if it’s a typo. Get someone else to double check as well. A second opinion can help you evaluate the content for appropriateness, professionalism, and smooth flow.