Hiring managers are tasked with reviewing hundreds of cover letters and resumes each day, which leaves little time to truly get to know the candidates they are interested in talking to about an open position.
Because of this, it is critical that you make the very best first impression you can in your cover letter—which means following some dos and don’ts of writing the perfect cover letter so that yours stands out from the pack.
What Is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a marketing tool for your resume. It highlights who you are as a candidate, what soft skills you have to offer, and why this job would be a good fit for you. It generally supports the resume, so it should not introduce any new points that weren’t mentioned in it.
A cover letter can be an important part of your application process, especially if you are going after an internship or entry-level job. And no matter what kind of job you are applying for, there are some basic rules to cover letter writing that will help you stand out and make sure that you get the job you want!
The Dos and Don’ts of Writing the Perfect Cover Letter
In the section below, we’ll go over the dos and don’ts of writing the perfect cover letter so that you can apply for jobs with confidence and increase your chances of getting hired!
1. Do: Tailor your cover letter to every job you apply for.
The first part includes knowing what each company wants to hear. Research and identify what the company needs. This will be an opportunity to show how your skills match what is needed for the position you are applying for.
The second part is about staying true to yourself but still tailoring your cover letter to each job. With a targeted cover letter, there is a much higher chance that you’ll be noticed among a stack of hundreds.
You can also share how you found out about the position and how you would like to help solve the problem it presents. Be sure to mention any relevant experience from previous jobs or internships that aligns with this new opportunity, as well as any qualifications from education-related activities such as research, thesis papers, co-curricular activities and other extracurricular projects/programs that are related to your field of study (to demonstrate knowledge).
Include a summary statement highlighting what skillset is necessary for success in this position (while also mentioning why it would be advantageous for you personally) and reiterate why you are qualified for the role based on what was mentioned before.
Here are some points to remember to ensure your cover letter is tailored for the specific job:
- Your cover letter should be customized with skills or past projects relevant to the job. Make sure these showcase your experience.
- Refer to the posting and make sure it reflects the company’s needs.
- If you are interested in multiple jobs, it may not be a bad idea to tailor individual cover letters for each one based on the requirements listed on their posting(s).
- Share any additional information not included in your resume that might help with selecting you as the best candidate, such as projects completed or certificates obtained.
2. Do: Keep it short, professional, and positive.
Begin your cover letter by addressing the company in a greeting, such as Dear Sir or Madam. And then, include a line about how you found their listing (i.e., through LinkedIn).
Next, state why you are interested in the job. You can mention anything that you can do for them, your skills, qualifications, how you meet their requirements, what sets you apart from other applicants, or why they should hire you.
Also, include an ending line that lets them know that they can reach out to learn more or set up an interview if they would like to get to know more about your work and qualifications better. Be courteous when providing information about yourself and offer appreciation at the end of your letter.
3. Do: Use appropriate business email etiquette.
The email should be addressed to the right person. In this case, it is usually the hiring manager. Even if you don’t know that person’s name, be sure to use Dear Sir or Madam as a generic address. If you are corresponding with a woman who uses her maiden name at work, then you might want to address her as Ms Last Name.
Remember to include your full name at the top of your email message, followed by your contact information, such as your job title, company, and phone number, all in one sentence.
It also helps to include an introductory paragraph about yourself. For example, “I am writing to express my sincere interest in the open SEO content writer position.”
4. Do: Discuss your skills.
Determine your biggest, most important skill. Discuss how you learned this skill (i.e., through school or work). Did you like it? If not, why not?
You can also discuss why you want to work for this company, even if it doesn’t seem like a perfect fit at first glance. What do they do that excites you? How can they improve your skillset? Why is this opportunity attractive to you as opposed to others out there?
Mention how your skills will add value to the company’s mission or goals. Do your research here! What does the company need in terms of skills in order to grow? Consider these needs when framing your responses about what you have to offer them.
5. Do: Explain how you can help.
Every organization has different needs that are usually made clear in a job description. If you are not sure how you can help the company, start by looking at its website, and social media accounts to get a sense of its current projects or needs.
From there, it is just a matter of following these steps:
- Reflect on your skills (including experience, certifications, etc) that are related to the position.
- Explain why this opportunity is important to you as it aligns with your goals in life or career-wise.
- Explain how it would make sense for you to bring these skills into this particular opportunity in detail.
- End with a statement about why you are excited about the opportunity. You might also want to ask any questions that come up while reviewing the details of the role/company.
6. Do: Proofread before sending.
In a world that relies heavily on digital communication, it is tempting to send your resume without proofreading.
However, doing so is more likely to result in an immediate rejection. The person who may be reading your cover letter might not even bother reading past spelling errors or grammatical mistakes.
To avoid this common mistake, take some time to make sure you’ve revised your document before sending it out. Make sure there are no misspellings, grammar mistakes, formatting issues or other distractions for the person reading your application.
Proofread your letter at least twice before submitting it. Make sure to check for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Hiring managers pay attention to those things!
If you are still feeling unsure about any aspect of your cover letter, ask someone whose opinion you respect or look up a sample cover letter online. (We will discuss this further in the next part.) Paying attention to these aspects will make all the difference in how much weight your application carries.
Remember that hiring managers want to hire the best person for the job; so be your best self by writing a stellar cover letter!
7. Do: Get someone else to read over your cover letter
Getting someone else to read over your cover letter can help identify any inconsistencies or issues with flow. Once you are confident that it is in its best shape, print it out to get a feel for formatting and look. Try looking at it on different types of paper: white paper, ivory, and yellow.
Consider printing them on professional-grade resume paper if you want to really make an impression. There is nothing worse than getting called in for an interview, only to find that their resume was printed off of a laser printer.
Many candidates show up with resumes photocopied onto regular copy paper before, and they definitely lost points with recruiters. The format should be clean without clutter, so keep photos and designs away from the page margins as much as possible.
8. Do: Use a Cover Letter Builder
Use a cover letter builder to create a professional cover letter in minutes. All you need to do is enter your contact information, upload your resume, choose a theme, and write a few sentences about why you are the best candidate for the job.
Even if it is only temporary work or volunteer work, it will show that you are eager to learn new skills and have an interest in improving your standing as an employee.
Additionally, even if there are ready-made templates for you, always be sure to include all relevant skills like typing speed, data entry experience, customer service experience, foreign language fluency—anything that makes you stand out from other applicants.
The more qualifications you can show potential employers without physically sending them your resume (which is limited to only one page), the better chance you’ll have of getting hired!
9. Don’t: Include irrelevant information.
It is crucial to take some time before submitting your application materials to think about what the company is asking for specifically so you can tailor your cover letter accordingly.
Remember, an employer wants someone who will be able to do the work they need to be done in order to fulfil their mission. So, if you don’t have any experience in certain areas, it may be best not to mention anything about them at all!
10. Don’t: Repeat all information from your resume.
Don’t just rehash everything from your resume. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show you are a great fit for this role in a new way.
Use this opportunity to show off some personality—give them something fun or thought-provoking, like why ____ are your best skill sets for the job, what accomplishment makes you most proud, or even how a weakness you once had turned into a strength.
Start with a compliment that reflects how well they did their job. For example, “I’m not sure if there was ever any question I was going to be the perfect fit.” End by saying what excites you about taking on this position, such as “I can’t wait to begin.”
11. Don’t: Use generic language.
Keep sentences short and concise by using simple words. Never use three words when one suffices.
When writing a cover letter for any job opportunity, you want to demonstrate professionalism and attention to detail. One way to do this is by using proper English grammar and syntax throughout your documents–not relying on shortcuts like LOL or WTF.
If you are unsure how to spell a word, just type it into Google and see what comes up. Text speak is distracting and unprofessional, and it will only create barriers between you and your potential employer.
When applying for an entry-level position, don’t use the word respectfully at the beginning of your cover letter. Respect is assumed and unnecessary.
12. Don’t: Include too much personal information.
You don’t need to reveal everything about yourself in order to write a good cover letter. While personal details can sometimes give employers insight into who you are as a person, they can also reveal information that could be inappropriate or considered discriminatory (such as ethnicity).
It is important to strike the right balance when including personal details about yourself; just make sure what you include won’t exclude you from consideration for employment opportunities because of sensitive topics like religion or ethnicity.
13. Don’t: Use too many keywords.
When writing a cover letter, it is important to avoid keywords that can show your inexperience. Words like executive, C-level, or board member are better suited for those with more than five years of experience.
14. Don’t: Focus on what the job can do for you.
What employers don’t want to see on your cover letter: a sentence that starts with I need, I am looking for, or I want.
They are not interested in what you need or what you are looking for, they are interested in what you can do for them. Talk about how excited you are to learn more about their company, and mention specific things that interest you and why.
What employers DO want to see on your cover letter: a concise summary of why you’re qualified for the position. Again, focus on your qualifications rather than discussing salary requirements (they’ll always ask), relocation expenses (useful if travel is involved), etc. And don’t forget to include contact information at the end!
15. Don’t: Lie on your resume.
Your resume should always be honest because if someone ever finds out that you lied about it, it could not only jeopardize your career prospects at this company but also any future ones with other companies.
16. Don’t: Give up on finding the perfect job!
Most importantly, don’t apply for a job unless you really want it! Just because the position seems like a good fit doesn’t mean it is. If you don’t care about the organization, your application won’t stand out from any other applicant who has no passion for the role.
If you are not interested in learning more about their company culture, don’t waste their time or yours. And only apply for jobs that meet your qualifications (both education-wise and experience-wise), so you’re not wasting anyone’s time applying to positions that are beyond your abilities.
Get That Dream Job with the Perfect Cover Letter
Writing the perfect cover letter can seem like an insurmountable task, but it is actually quite simple if you follow these dos and don’ts:
- Do: Tailor your cover letter to every job you apply for.
- Do: Keep it short, professional, and positive.
- Do: Use appropriate business email etiquette.
- Do: Discuss your skills.
- Do: Explain how you can help.
- Do: Proofread before sending.
- Do: Get someone else to read over your cover letter.
- Do: Use a Cover Letter Builder.
- Don’t: Include irrelevant information.
- Don’t: Repeat all information from your resume.
- Don’t: Use generic language.
- Don’t: Include too much personal information.
- Don’t: Use too many keywords.
- Don’t: Focus on what the job can do for you.
- Don’t: Lie on your resume.
- Don’t: Give up on finding the perfect job!
Understand what makes the perfect cover letter by learning the dos and don’ts of writing the perfect cover letter. Soon, you should get that most awaited YES!
Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of IdeasPlusBusiness.com. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
For questions, inquiries and advert placements on the blog, please send an email to the Editor at ideasplusbusiness[at]gmail[dot]com. You can also follow IdeasPlusBusiness.com on Twitter here and like our page on Facebook here. This website contains affiliate links to some products and services. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.
Dahlia Keen is passionate about helping people find meaningful work in a career they enjoy. A creative writer for resumekit.com, she is backed by years of experience using an online resume maker to craft resumes for diverse industries, and she has helped hundreds of professionals land their dream job.