03.11.13 // GeekGirlConnections: Cover Letters 101
by Terra Olsen
The dreaded cover letter, it instills more fear in job seekers than any other part of the job search experience. But it doesn’t have to be so scary or terrible. I have broken down a few helpful tips to help make the cover letter experience more bearable.
But first I would like to take a moment to stress the importance of a cover letter. Time and time again I have talked to hiring managers who are dumbfounded when they get a resume with no cover letter. Not sending a cover letter does two things: Firstly, it sends the wrong message to the employer. You are basically saying that your time is more valuable than theirs, or that you simply don’t care enough. Secondly, you are missing a valuable opportunity to sell yourself. A cover letter helps an employer get to know you beyond the resume. Cover letters are really a wonderful tool that can help differentiate you from the completion.
So now that I have clearly convinced you to write cover letters, on to the tips!
Be sure to write your cover letter in a proper and formal fashion. Always have a formal salutation. Address your letter to the hiring manager (e.g. “Dear Ms. Lastname” or “To Whom It May Concern”). None of this “Hi” nonsense. Make sure to close your letter formally as well (e.g. “Sincerely”). In addition, do not use abbreviations or internet/text lingo—I cannot stress this enough. Seriously. (And that includes emoticons!)
2.) Proofread x12
It is essential to have a flawless resume, but it is even more essential to have a flawless cover letter. If you have spelling and/or grammatical errors in your cover letter, the reviewer might just toss your application without even reviewing your resume. So proofread your work. A good rule is to set it aside once you’re done with it, and then proofread it a few hours or a day later. It is hard to see your own mistakes when you just produced something, so taking a step back will help you clearly see where you might have misspelled something. Again, just slow down and take your time.
3.) Know who you’re addressing
Make sure you address the right company. I have seen cover letters that have had the correct company in some sentences, but then a different company in other sentences. Big no-no! Make sure you know whom you’re addressing, and how they spell their name (e.g. GeekGirlCon, not Geek Girl Con). In addition properly addressing the company you’re applying to, make sure you stress why you want to work that particular company. Hiring managers want to know how you will help their company succeed.
4.) Do Not repeat your resume
You should use your cover letter to tell the employer more about yourself, not to reiterate information that is in your resume. This is an opportunity to show your personality, and interest in their company and the industry. Try to tell an interesting story about why you’re interested in the industry, or why a particular strange job was actually a great way at developing x and y skills.
I hope these tips help you create the perfect cover letter and land your dream job! Happy Hunting!