Just like Hodor in Game of Thrones, your cover letter needs to nail its one job. As the back-cover text to your professional story, your cover letter needs to make the powerful, error-free first impression that makes recruiters buy the book: your resume. Your cover letter is also the first thing hiring managers read, so it needs to be a punchy sales pitch, not the next plodding George R.R. Martin novel. Boring your readers means your resume ends up in the discard pile!
Build the best bridge between your resume and your dream job by making sure your cover letter is:
- Brief. Recruiters are more likely to keep reading a compelling and concise cover letter. Succinctly match your top selling points with the company’s needs, and explain if you’re looking to change careers or industries. Stick to one page—any longer, and you’re probably rambling or repeating your resume.
- Different from your resume. If your cover letter is your resume in paragraph form, you’re missing an opportunity to sell yourself. Use this space to tell a personal story, share your knowledge of the company, and delve into your biggest achievements. Let your personality shine beyond bullet points! After all, you’re more than your job description.
- Properly formatted. Your cover letter had better look good electronically! PDF formats are best for keeping your formatting consistent; DOC formats can shift around on different computers. For this same reason, don’t paste your cover letter into the body of an email, if you can help it. Also make sure your cover letter is easy to read, with realistic spacing and margins, and no typos.
- Focused. You may love your Chihuahuas or your bowling league, but your hobbies are best kept off your application materials. Recruiters have other ways of gauging your fit with company culture, such as whether your values align with the team’s. And don’t worry about losing your personality–it will show through your writing style and the professional stories you tell.
- Not a straight-up template.You’re making a huge mistake by sending the same exact cover letter to 20 different companies. At the very least, you should be customizing each letter with the company’s name, contact information, and the title of the job you’re applying for. And really, you should be customizing each letter to reflect your knowledge of the company and how your skills fit with the company’s needs. It’s a lot of customization, but it shows you value quality over quantity.
You’re not a best-selling author; you don’t have the luxury to write 2,000 pages that go nowhere! Make a great first impression with a compelling cover letter. Maximize your presentation by choosing an angle that will get your cover letter noticed, and by avoiding the mistakes that turn off recruiters. You may not get an HBO deal, but you won’t get burned in dragon fire!