Cover letters are going the way of the dinosaurs but they haven’t quite reached extinction yet. Be careful how you do them as they can be a minefield of mistakes.
1. Not doing a cover letter.
Even though a study by author Tony Behara of 3000 hiring authorities found that 86% said cover letters are “not very important” when they are also receiving resumes, you still have to do a cover letter. They may not read it but they will notice if it is not there.
2. Doing a paper cover letter.
If you are sending a snail mail resume and cover letter, whoever is receiving it is laughing. You are doing a cover email. And what is the rule about email? You have 8 seconds to catch their attention.
3. Putting something catchy in the subject line.
This will really annoy the hiring manager. The hiring authority will want to use the subject line as a reference so they can easily find you and the job you are applying for. Put… your name ….applying for…the job title… in the subject line.
4. Using a salutation without knowing their name.
You are not in high school. Do not use Dear Sir or Dear Madam and do not call them Mr. or Ms. if you have a last name. Only use a salutation if you have the correct first name. If you don’t, just leave the salutation off.
5. Use a paragraph strategy.
Remember you only have 8 seconds. Ideally, use the first sentence to introduce three or four bullet points on how your skills match the company’s needs. There should be plenty of white space in the formatting. If there is anything on your resume that would raise questions about your candidacy, you could address it in a second sentence after the bullet points.
6. Bring up your salary.
Too soon to talk about this. If your level is a problem, see #5.
7. Provide contact information in your cover email.
Your cell phone and email address should be on your resume. You don’t need to repeat it again, but make sure you have a professional voice mail on your cell phone and you answer all calls you receive when conducting a job search. Being easily accessible trumps giving five different times when you can be reached in the cover email.
8. Forget to include a closing.
Use Looking forward to hearing from you and sign your full name. It gives some formality to the document and clarifies the action you want to happen…and hopefully they do, too.