Every time you send a resume to a potential employer, whether you're applying over a job-search website, via email or even through snail mail, it should be accompanied by a cover letter. Whereas resumes allow you to show off your breadth of experience, cover letters give you the chance to indicate just how your experience makes you a good fit for the specific position you're applying for. However, as many hiring managers know, not all cover letters are done well – and a bad cover letter could cost you the job. Read on for some cover letter dos and don'ts you should keep in mind:
Do use a strong opening
Starting strong is important for grabbing the readers' attention and setting yourself apart immediately. So, avoid generic phrases like "I'm hoping to be considered." Instead, replace them with something along the lines of, "With my extensive background in X as well as several major accomplishments in X, I feel I'm an excellent candidate for this position."
Don't repeat your resume
The hiring manager has your resume already, and they don't want to read the same exact information twice. Think of your resume as a list of your experience and the specific responsibilities you had with each position. Your cover letter should detail how handling those responsibilities has prepared you for the ones you'll have at the prospective job you're applying for.
Do provide specific examples
Your cover letter is your chance to shine and stand out from a stack of similar resumes and credentials. To do that, make sure you aren't just using buzzwords like "quick thinker" or "problem solver." Get specific about what you've done at previous jobs to prove you're those things. Perhaps you turned an unhappy client into a huge success or came up with an out-of-the-box solution to a sales problem.
Don't use 'Dear Hiring Manager'
While "Dear Hiring Manager" is still better than "To whom it may concern," the best way to begin a cover letter is to use the hiring manager's name. This information can sometimes be found by an Internet search, or if you're connected with anyone who works at the company, ask them who you should address it to.
Do provide contact information
Both your resume and your cover letter should have your contact information, to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager to get ahold of you. A practical (and very professional) way to do this is to use personalized stationery that contains your address, email and phone number in a letterhead. Then, reiterate your phone number or the easiest way to get in touch with you at the end of the letter.
Don't forget to proofread
You've heard the advice before, but we'll say it again: Read your letter over before you send it off (and then read it two or three more times just in case). Many hiring managers will stop reading as soon as they see a basic grammatical error or typo – especially if you're also extolling your excellent writing abilities in the same letter.