10 Commandments for a Sparkling Cover Letter

1. Write a cover letter—then send it with your resume.

You’d be surprised how few job seekers actually include cover letters with their resumes. These “naked” resumes might get read—or they might get trashed. If your target hiring manager is one of those who loves to find out more about star applicants, you need to provide the means for her to do so.

2. Include the proper address and job title.

Don’t embarrass yourself and automatically consign your resume to the dustbin by neglecting to personalize your letter for the hiring manager and position you’re seeking.

3. Create a simple, elegant design for your letterhead.

Ensure that the hiring manager sees that your resume and letter come together as a package.

4. Don’t rehash your resume.

Your resume is a detailed list of your accomplishments. A cover letter is an introduction to your resume. Don’t confuse the two. Instead, highlight the best of your resume and explain why your accomplishments prove you’ll be the best for the job.

5. Don’t write more than one page.

Again, your letter is a teaser for your resume. If you’ve gone over one page, you’re boring your reader. Be succinct; be punchy; be powerful.

6. Highlight the best of your accomplishments.

When you do mention your career history, make sure that you’ve selected the most relevant, most incisive, and most exemplary accomplishments. You might need to tweak these based on the job posting.

7. Use impeccable grammar and spelling.

If this isn’t your long suit, ask someone to read it. Barring that, read it out loud to yourself. Backward. Sentence by sentence. Trust me: That technique will enable you to focus on each word of each sentence.

8. Use online application systems to your advantage.

If you’re uploading your resume into an online application (applicant tracking system), create one document with your letter on the first page and your resume on the second and third pages.

9. Keep e-mailed cover letters short.

Attention spans for e-mail are shorter than those for printed material. Your e-mailed cover letter might be half to two-thirds the length of your printed one.

10. Hire an expert writer if you have any misgivings about commandments 1-9.

If you have any reservations about your ability to craft a top-flight resume, cover letter, or post-interview thank you letter, hire a certified advanced resume writer.  No doubt you’ll shorten your job search.

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