The Cover Letter Dilemma – How Best to Use One

Done correctly a cover letter is a terrific way to introduce yourself to a prospective employer, highlighting your qualifications and skills.  Most of the time it is your first impression and for hiring managers who look at resumes all day it can be a great tool to see if you’re a good fit for the job.  Even though a lot of companies no longer specifically ask for a cover letter with a resume, why not go the extra mile to show that you really are interested in the job?

 

There seems to be some consensus among resume experts about what NOT to do when writing a cover letter.  Let’s look at the top 10:

 

·      Don’t overuse ‘I’ – Focus on what you can do to meet the employer’s needs, not on your personal life and minimize your use of the word “I,” especially at the beginning of your sentences

·      Don’t start out weak – Avoid trite phrases like “Please consider me for. . . “. Open with something more like, “The position of Lead CPA in your ad is the perfect match for my 10 years of experience as accountant and assistant billing manager with XYZ Corp.”

·      Don’t short sell yourself – The employer is shopping and you’re the product on the shelf.  Emphasize compelling reasons for buying into hiring you be that proficiency in required skills, accomplishments that jive with the job description, etc.

·      Don’t drone on and on – Keep it short and sweet.  Two or three concise but compelling paragraphs is enough.

·      Don’t plagiarize your own resume – Use this letter as your handshake, not as an opportunity to relist the points on your resume.  Talk about your hardest sale, how you solved a tough problem, etc.

·      Don’t be vague – Know the position your applying for and do a background search on the company.  Your letter should state specifically how you are the best fit.

·      Don’t forget to customize – using the same template for other applications is fine but addressing the letter “Dear Mr. Smith” when the hiring manager’s name is Mrs. Jones is not going to get you any points.  Proofread!

·      Don’t use a weak close – let the prospective employer know that you will be following up in a few days.  Let them know that they aren’t wasting their time on someone who doesn’t really want the position.

·      Don’t be rude – Be respectful.  Thank the reader for the time and consideration they have given to your letter and resume.

·      Don’t forget to sign off – Unless your sending your cover letter as an e-mail don’t just type out your name.  Show attention to detail and sign your name.

When you’re ready to attach your cover letter to a resume look over the career opportunities available online in Finance/Accounting or Technology and give us a call.  At RJ Byrd, we’re excited about helping you make your perfect career match!

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