Cover Letter Do’s and Dont’s

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Confucius

Maybe you’ve got your resume or CV all ready to go. It’s formatted, polished, and optimized to a T. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing you need to be successful in your job search.

Yes, here we are talking about the dreaded cover letter. Just the name alone can be enough to send shivers down any job-seeker’s spine. For some reason, it seems easy to distill all the relevant information about our skills and experience into a set of clear and palatable bullet points. The resume is done. It covers all the most important stuff, like our basic contact information and work experience. Though we may need to tweak it, making small changes when applying for different jobs, it’s more or less ready to go.

But writing a letter… that somehow has the perfect balance of new information, while re-hashing the most relevant points from our resume without being redundant, and without it reading like it was written by a robot whose sole purpose is applying for the desired position… now, this is a real challenge.

At Brieffin, we specialize in professional brand-building – from portfolios, to resumes, and everything in between. And yes, that includes cover letters. Today, we wanted to share a few of our favorite tips for cover-letter writing – what to do, and what not to do.

Cover letter DON’T: Use a template

Google search “cover letters” and you’ll get no shortage of results. But many of them will be templates. Just stay away from them. While it might not hurt to read a few samples to get an idea of formatting, it’s almost always obvious when someone uses a template. Plus, using a template always carries an additional risk – you might accidentally leave in some of the pre-set information instead of replacing it with your own. 

Cover letter DON’T: Use the same cover letter for each job

Your cover letter should be so specific that it wouldn’t fit if you sent it to another company. That means you should focus on the details of the job you’re applying for, and tailor your letter for the company and job description. That means you’re going to have to do your research and write a different cover letter for each job. And this isn’t a lot of fun, but it’s imperative to the cause. Also, like we talked about before, using completely different cover letters helps keep you from making mistakes by forgetting to replace one company name for another. 

Cover letter DON’T: Write your autobiography

Just like a resume, cover letters should generally be limited to one page. This includes the heading and salutation, which can often take up one-fourth of the page or more. When you get into the body of the letter, don’t immediately launch into your life story. While you want to put your best foot forward and include all the necessary information, a shorter, more concise cover letter is less likely to exhaust a hiring manager just by looking at it. Focusing on the most relevant details makes each one more salient.

Cover letter DO: Let your personality shine through

Your cover letter is the only opportunity you get to be “you” in your whole job application. And what you can offer to a job or a career is so much more than the sum of all your skills and work history. Your potential employer is – or should be – keeping that in mind as well when making hiring decisions. They want to know how you’ll fit into their current company culture and who you are as a person. The only way you’re going to set yourself apart from every other applicant is with your cover letter. Let your personality shine through.

Cover letter DO: Focus on what you can offer

While you want your personality to become apparent, remember that the cover letter isn’t really about you. It’s about what you can offer to the company; why you’re the best fit for the job in a sea of other applicants. It’s okay to talk about yourself, but make sure it all relates back to the desired position. 

Cover letter DO: Proofread

There’s nothing worse than sending off your resume and cover letter – which you’ve worked so hard on, and are so proud of – to your dream job… and then finding a typo or grammatical error afterward. There’s really no way to undo it, and all you can do is hope that the hiring manager doesn’t notice it. But the unfortunate reality is that many are looking for any reason to disqualify an applicant from the application pool, and spelling errors are an easy way to narrow it down. After finishing your cover letter – and resume, for that matter – close it and come back to it the next day with a fresh set of eyes. Have a friend or family member read it, too. This will ensure that your cover letter is working for you, not against you.

While cover-letter-writing may not be anyone’s favorite activity, especially while dealing with the stress of the job search, we at Brieffin want to you know what we’re here for you. With our consulting services, you can feel confident that your professional image is coherent, working together in harmony to offer the best of yourself.

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