About to submit your cover letter? Read this first
A great cover letter is an essential part of job application. “It is the invitation to get to know you,” says Angela Noble-Grange, senior lecturer of management communication at Johnson. A well-crafted letter can substantially boost your standing as a job candidate. Conversely, “all kinds of little errors can completely ruin your chances of furthering that relationship,” she says.
What should you pay attention to while writing a cover letter? What are some important points that a cover letter should include? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Don't mass-produce your cover letters. “It's easy to write one letter and then send it to 100 companies,” says Noble-Grange, “but [recruiters] understand that they have not been specifically tailored and the [applicant] is not really interested in their company at all.” Donna Fleming, associate director at Johnson's Career Management Center, also notes the downside of simply copying and pasting cover letters: “Almost always somebody will put the wrong address, or forget to change the name of the company.” It's better to narrow down the companies you really care about and write a customized cover letter for each one of them.
- Make it clear why you fit. Your cover letter shouldn't just focus on you. “The most important connection you can make is what you have to offer and how that is going to provide value for the company [you are applying to],” says Noble-Grange. Make that connection clear, “because the reader doesn't want to work to make that connection.” Highlighting how your skills dovetail with the company's needs underscores your interest in the company and shows that you've done your research.
- Show, don't tell. “Demonstrate the things you claim. Don't just claim them,” says Fleming. Focus on one or two areas of expertise that you can demonstrate using specific examples drawn from your experience.
- Be discriminating about name-dropping. Mentioning the names of people you have met in the company is a good strategy. But keep in mind the political connections of the person whom you are going to mention. “Just dropping the name of the CEO or somebody whom you may not know very well will not serve the purpose at all,” says Noble-Grange.
- Keep it short. “A cover letter should be less than one page,” says Fleming. “Highlight why the company really interests you and show you have done your research.” Do not reiterate what you've already written in your resume. Instead, mention achievements or attributes that complement the information in your resume.
- Write clearly and proofread. Fleming says some recruiters look for evidence that applicants can write clearly and directly; how a person writes a cover letter can indicate how he or she will write to a client. Avoid mistakes by proofreading at least twice and then asking someone else to read your cover letter.
- Find out who's going to read your cover letter. Whenever possible, personalize your cover letter by getting the name of the recruiter. Be sure to find out the recruiter's gender so you can use an appropriate salutation. “If you have already met the person, you can use [his or her] first name,” says Fleming.
Yuezhou Huo ’15 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson.