Since I’m on a roll this week with cover letter tips, I thought I’d continue the series with some obvious, but still overlooked things to consider!
Personalize each letter. You should make every attempt to be able to address each letter to a specific individual. This may require that you contact the organization to get the name and title of the appropriate person.
Use non-sexist language. If you are answering a blind ad with no way of obtaining a specific person to whom you can direct your letter, do not use “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam.” “To whom it may concern” is appropriate, but only do this when it is impossible to get a specific name.
Limit your letter to one page. Clear concise writing will ensure that you say everything you need to say in as few words as possible. Cover letters should never be more than one page and usually not more than 3-4 paragraphs.
Avoid overusing the word “I”. For example, instead of saying, “I have enclosed a copy of my resume” you can restructure sentences to use “you” more often. The result would be “Enclosed you will find a copy of my resume.” A rule of thumb is to try not to use “I” more than twice per paragraph.
Vary your writing. Variety makes your letters more interesting and easier to read. Try to offset long sentences with short ones. Use transitional words and phrases to help your ideas flow together more easily.
Use attention-getting action verbs and adjectives. When describing yourself and your qualifications, use adjectives and action verbs to add flavor and arouse interest. Check out our “Skills List” for examples.
Proofread, proofread, proofread. Check and check again for spelling errors. Don’t rely on your spell check alone. Read your letter backward to catch your spelling errors and typos. Check for grammatical errors by reading your letter out loud carefully from beginning to end. Have other people check for errors as well. Nothing shatters a good first impression faster than work that appears carelessly done.
“Sincerely” is a good way to close your letter. Never forget to sign it if you are mailing it.
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