I know it’s not easy for people to get the job they want these days. But, as a business owner, it’s not that easy to find the right candidate, either. A big part of the problem is that some candidates don’t know how to write a good cover letter. Frankly, their letters are terrible! They are either so poorly written to be incomprehensible, or they are completely inappropriate for the job posting.
I recently advertised to find a qualified person for a position in my organization and was pleased to get a good number of responses. Pleased, that is, until I realized the erratic quality of the responses. In some instances I received only a resume. There wasn’t even a note in the body of the email indicating the position for which the person was applying, let alone a cover letter. In other instances, I received cover letters that explained, in detail, all of the qualifications the person applying had — for a position that bore no resemblance to the one I advertised. The job I posted was targeted toward someone with good administrative and social media skills. You can imagine my confusion when I received cover letters of this ilk:
I am determined to pursue my career in the medical field as I have an overwhelming desire to spend time in laboratories. Plus I am a very positive person and can provide wonderful customer support. You need me! I need you!”
Actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to employ a person who wrote the above.
Of course, in the instance where the person applying for the job clearly did not have English as his or her first language, I understand that “lost in translation” element to the cover letter. But for someone whose first language is clearly English, and who has had to write exams and essays at the college or university level, it really shouldn’t be that difficult to create a good cover letter.
What can be difficult is to know how to present one’s accomplishments and illustrate them in the persuasive manner necessary for landing that all-important interview. Writing a good cover letter takes a lot of careful writing, re-writing and editing. So here are some tips to help anyone writing a cover letter head in that direction.
Four Tips for Writing a Good Cover Letter
Size Matters: A cover letter should be no more than one page, limiting you to three or four succinct paragraphs.
Logic Rules: Your cover letter should have a logical flow; a beginning, middle and end. Start by saying what position you are applying for. Continue by demonstrating the skills you possess that best match the skill set of the job. Conclude with a sincere comment that demonstrates a personal connection to the job for which you are applying, and/or to the company.
Specifics required: Don’t just say, “I am excellent at such and such”; illustrate your excellence with brief examples. Use action verbs to demonstrate your achievements. Use key words that reflect the job posting. (For example, if the posting asks for someone who has excellent filing skills, you probably want to mention your excellent filing skills.) But don’t pad out a cover letter with every key word in the job description; that will fool no one.
Originality counts: Don’t simply present the contents of your resume in the cover letter. Demonstrate that you know the company to which you are applying, and use a tone that is appropriate to that company.
I also recommend taking a look at Business Insider’s 7 New Rules for Writing the Perfect Cover Letter for more ideas. And one more recommendation: if you are writing a cover letter for an administrative job, don’t start out by announcing your desire to work in a medical laboratory!
To get help for your writing skills, contact me at the Language Lab firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about our writing courses.