Good and Bad Cover Letters: Whats the Difference?
Just as when you meet someone for the first time, you want to make a good first impression, so it is with a cover letter. A cover letter is your introduction to a prospective employer, a chance for you to sell yourself. A good cover letter will make a good impression on that employer, and possibly get you an interview, if not get you hired, for the job that you want. Of course, the opposite is true if you have a cover letter that is bad. A bad cover letter is an unfortunate waste of time for everyone concerned.
A good cover letter will be formatted properly, using a business block style. It should have the date on it, your name and return address, and be addressed to the company you are applying to work at. Whenever possible, use the name and title of the person who does the hiring for the company, and use their name in the salutation. Salutations like, To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir or Madam should be avoided.
Your cover letter should be typed using traditional or contemporary fonts like, Times New Roman or Arial. The font should not be more than 10 to 12 points. These fonts and font sizes are professional looking and easy to read. You should make sure that your spelling and grammar are correct, and that the tone of the letter is a positive one. A good cover letter should be no longer than one page in length, and printed on white bond paper. Nothing will get your cover letter ignored more than one that has a negative tone, that does not look or sound professional, and that is riddled with misspelling, bad grammar and slang terms. Also, a cover letter that is lengthy, and printed on colored paper will not make a good impression.
It is not good to send a cover letter that has little or no substance to it. It must contain concise details pertinent to the job that you are applying for. You should not send a cover letter that only states that your resume is enclosed. A good cover letter should contain coherent information organized into several paragraphs. It should start out by referring to the position that you are applying for, and how you came to know that the position was available. The employer will be interested in why you would like to work for the company, in the position that you are applying for, and he will be impressed when he reads your cover letter giving him some details about the business and position. This shows that you have done your research about the company, and that you are truly interested in the job.
In addition, a good cover letter will highlight your skill set. Take some the skills that you have listed on your resume that match up with the skills that the employer is looking for, and explain how the qualifications that you have can benefit the company and/or the department. It would also be advantageous for your cover letter to list a few of the good qualities you may have; for example, you might mention things like you are punctual, customer service oriented, or that you have a positive attitude. If your cover letter does not catch the eye of its reader by showing the skills or qualities that an employer is looking for, your resume may never be looked at.
In the last paragraph of a good cover letter you will want to express that you are looking forward to an interview, and indicate that you will call to follow-up in a specific amount of time. This should be done in a way that does not sound too pushy. You should also conclude your letter thanking the prospective employer for their time and consideration. Use a professional and proper closing such as, Sincerely, to end your letter. It would not be looked upon with favor to use a closing like, hope to hear from you soon, best wishes or be good.
The difference between a good and bad cover letter can mean getting an interview for the position you are applying for, or finding yourself applying for other positions.
You might wonder if a cover letter is necessary when you submit a resume. Unless otherwise instructed, a cover letter should accompany every resume, as a cover letter compels your reader to review your resume.
Your resume presents factual information about your qualifications, experience, and educational credentials, which present you as a good match for a position based on the content in a job posting. It is common for job seekers to use one resume for several employment contacts. While this is a customary practice for job postings with similar job responsibilities, a cover letter lets you personalize your resume package for a specific job opportunity.
You no doubt have value-added skills that are above and beyond those listed as the fundamental job requirements. These skills can distinguish you from other candidates. A cover letter lets you present this information and add value to your marketability.
In your resume package, your cover letter is an informative and even fun way to demonstrate that you can communicate in a clear and concise fashion. You do this with the words you use, the tone of the letter, and the visual presentation.
Although there are no set rules to creating cover letters, the following are some guidelines:
Be brief. Cover letters are not essays. Use one page to communicate who you are, what you can do for your potential employer, and why you are the best candidate for the position.
Be professional, yet personal. Avoid using the same tone and language you use in your resume. Address your reader as if you were speaking to him or her in person. Your cover letter should add to whatever is in your resume, not repeat it.
Tell who you are. Open the letter with a clear statement of who you are and what you do. Don’t make your reader search for that information in the body of the letter or worse, have to interpret the content of the letter to figure it out.
Maintain consistency. Use the same heading format on all documents within your resume package (resume, cover letter, references, follow-up letters, thank you letters).
Highlight your value-added skills. Spotlight your skills that do not appear in your resume such as your work ethics, teamwork ability, and skills that are not listed as requirements for the job but are useful to the organization.
Explain why you want to work for the company. Do you like their product or service, their financial standing, their position in the industry, or their direction for the future? Companies like to know that you have interest in their organization, not that you simply need a new job.
Proof, proof, proof. Make sure that your letter is clear, concise, and error free. Make a checklist that addresses grammar, punctuation, and words that are spelled correctly but are out of context (form instead of from, you instead of your, etc.). Use this checklist for your own proofreading, and have someone else read your letter as well, if possible.
A cover letter can make the difference between getting an interview and getting passed over. Use a cover letter to help boost your chances of getting the job offer.