6 Rules of Cover Letters

Cover letters are pretty much the bane of every job hunter’s existence. Even more than a résumé, a cover letter is daunting to write. This one letter has to encapsulate in only a few sentences all the reasons you are the right person for the job. And employers go through so many of them their eyes start to glaze over at a certain point. So here are some quick and easy ways to make sure your letter stands out from the crowd and hopefully gets you to that next step:

Address your letter to a specific person. Always try to find out the name of the hiring manager or HR contact. If it’s not already listed, you can call the company and simply ask.

Include all your contact information. You would be amazed how many people forget to do this. Makes sure your name, address, telephone number, and email address are clearly displayed.

Summarize the most important points of your resume. If you’re applying for a customer service job and your résumé includes one stint at a call center and some time as a sanitation worker, you’re only going to want to highlight the relevant position in the cover letter – in this case, the call center, since it shows you have previous experience dealing with customers. And remember: in a cover letter, brevity is key.

But don’t just repeat the information on your resume. Summarize doesn’t mean “copy and paste.” Be sure you elaborate—with specific examples and evidence!—what you’ve outlined in your résumé.

Don’t get cute. Unless you’re applying for a job in a very creative or avant garde field, avoid colorful stationery, humor, multiple question marks or exclamation points, smiley faces, or other gimmicks. You want your letter to feel personalized, but there’s a fine line between a confident letter and trying too hard. Ask someone else to read it over for you if you’re not sure where yours falls.

Always say thank you. End your letter with an expression of gratitude for the person’s time reading it, and use positive, forward-thinking language. Say something like, “After you’ve had the chance to review my résumé, feel free to contact me to arrange an interview.” Avoid words that might suggest a lack of confidence, such as “wish,” “if,” “should,” and “might.”