The Importance of a Cover Letter
A cover letter is a one-page document sent alongside your resume that provides additional information about the relation between your skills, accomplishments, and career experience to the job to which you are applying. As a jobseeker, a cover letter is an essential part of your career search journey as it is ultimately the first impression future employers will have of you.
The key to writing strong cover letters is to communicate how your professional background fits the needs of the role and overall culture of the company–potentially giving you a strategic advantage when compared to other applicants.
It is important to note that you should always tailor your cover letter to each open job and to avoid the four common mistakes made to ensure a smooth, successful job search journey.
Four Mistakes to Avoid In Your Cover Letter
Let’s be honest, the greeting “To Whom It May Concern” is widely antiquated, impersonal, and obsolete. You may find yourself in situations where it is deemed appropriate, nevertheless the salutation “To Whom It May Concern” should never be used when applying for jobs. Instead, consider the following alternatives:
Address Your Point of Contact
The best way to open your cover letter is by addressing it to your point of contact–i.e recruiter or hiring manager. Creating a more personal opening exhibits your attention to detail and comprehensive understanding of your prospective employer’s hiring practices.
Examples of Appropriate Salutations
- Dear or Hello Ms. [Last Name]
- Dear or Hello Mr. [Last Name]
- Dear or Hello Dr. [Last Name]
Look for Alternatives
If you are unable to locate a name, there are several alternatives you can use to ensure your cover letter salutation is as targeted as possible.
Examples of Alternative Salutations
- Dear or Hello [Company Name]
- Dear or Hello [Department Name]
- Dear or Hello [Company HR Department]
- Dear or Hello [Recruiting Team]
It is important to note that utilizing an alternative salutation should be your last resort. Be sure to search all avenues such as the company website, LinkedIn, or job description to properly address the individual reviewing your application.
While it is believed that cover letters are outdated and are not always required, many recruiters and hiring managers rely on them to gauge an applicant’s professional background, while also perceiving their eagerness and desire to become part of the team.
As a candidate, think of a cover letter as a method of elaboration. Do not reintroduce the same information listed on your resume, instead answer the question, “Why should we hire you?” by explaining how your skills, accomplishments, and career experiences will benefit the company.
Key Tip: Your cover letter should demonstrate your understanding of the company’s culture and position in the marketplace. Use this time to highlight your career experience that speaks to the job requirements and overall needs of the company.
Related: Tips on How to Update Your Resume
Most, if not all employers spend approximately five to ten seconds reviewing a candidate’s resume and cover letter–use this time to your advantage! Generally, your cover letter should consist of four short paragraphs that can be easily reviewed.
Be sure to focus each of your paragraphs around one central idea: how your career experience fits the needs of the role to which you are applying. Lead with a strong topic sentence, followed by descriptive keywords, and an attention-grabbing final thought.
Regardless of how impressive your skills and accomplishments may be, failing to proofread your cover letter could be detrimental to your application. On the other hand, exhibiting meticulous attention to your cover letter will display effective communication skills–a credential all employers are seeking.
Do not hesitate to reach out to a friend, colleague, or mentor to review your cover letter with a fresh set of eyes. This allows for the opportunity to receive feedback and increases the chances of job search success.
A smooth, successful job search journey often includes a cover letter. While your resume is a straightforward outline of your professional background, your cover letter should serve as its commentary.
Responsible for tying your career experience to the open position, a well-written cover letter may provide an advantage over similarly-qualified candidates.
If you would like to learn more about job search strategies, personal branding, and more, join us for free career advice at YUPRO Placement’s Jobseeker Bootcamp. Our bootcamp takes place each month with 45-minute training held Tuesday-Friday from 1:00-1:45 PM ET/ 10:00-10:45 AM PT via Zoom.
Register here to take the next step in your career search journey!
- Start by addressing your point of contact directly.
- Approach your cover letter as a method of elaboration.
- Condense your information and do not exceed one-page in length.
- Always proofread.