Keeping Your Cover Letter in Check – How to Present It

Now that you’ve got a solid-gold resume, you’ve got to think of how you’re going to present it. A good cover letter can say volumes about who you are and what you want – if you let it. Here are some tips to ensure your first contact with an employer is a memorable memo.

Boosting your resume with a good cover letter

    Keep it short: A cover letter should never, ever be longer than one page.

    Keep it in perspective: As you’re writing, remind yourself of what it is you want from this letter, and how you would interpret it if you were the employer.

    Keep it relevant: You don’t have to discuss everything on your resume. Only highlight experiences and skills that directly pertain to the position at hand – and cap it at two or three examples.

    Keep it on track: It’s easy to get carried away when writing about yourself, but no one wants to read a fivesentence account of some presentation you delivered two years ago. Save the play-by-play for your autobiography.

    Keep it correct: There’s nothing quite so jarring as a typo or grammatical error in the first sentence of a cover letter. And it happens far more often than you’d think. Keep it polite: Use proper titles (Sir/Madam, Mr./Ms./ Mrs./Miss). Introduce yourself in the first paragraph, and be sure to thank the employer for considering your application.

    1. Again, Jane is using a generic template here, and again, her application will likely get lost in the pile.

    2. Addressing the letter to ‘Dear PowerGym’ makes Jane appear to have done no research at all on the company.
    3. Her writing is basic and dull. In starting every sentence with ‘I’, she has created a repetitive and uninteresting read.
    4. Jane does not list any skills or expand on any anecdotes in this letter, making it little more than a repeat of her resume.
    5. She writes her letter in chronological order. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, in this instance it places irrelevant information near the front.

    This cover letter is poorly written, sparse, and boring. There is nothing in it to suggest she’s done any research on PowerGym at all, and, aside from her sentence explaining her training, nothing to prove she’s qualified. The letter is formulaic and cold; in no way does she come across as the ‘excellent fit’ she claims to be.

      1. Jane starts this off strongly; she has done some research to learn that Jim Flex is her contact for the job, and addresses him professionally and appropriately.
      2. Her opening paragraph is sharp and concise: she lists her name, what she is writing, and why she is doing so.
      3. The third paragraph is Jane’s ‘meat and bones.’ Here she lists two highlights from her resume (her training at the Canadian Fitness Organization and her high school captainship), briefly annotating each with positive results (Honours status and the Leadership Award).
      4. Jane’s fourth paragraph proves she’s done some research on the company. She locates its mission and explains why she would fit well with it.
      5. She concludes her letter with a professional (yet friendly!) note to explain how to contact her.

      This letter is a vast improvement. Instead of listing everything she’s done, Jane has carefully chosen a few experiences to truly show her aptitude for the job. She has tailored this letter specifically towards PowerGym, taking extra care to emphasize why she would be a good fit for the company. She selectively lists her experience, training, and goals; in the process, she makes a strong case for her employability.

      Get your FREE Career Handbook

      Get all these confidence-boosting job search tips in a handy E-zine that you’ll have with you when you need it, even if you’re offline. Download your FREE copy of DiversityCanada’s Employers Want YOU career handbook NOW. You’ll be be signed up for our newsletter packed with advice to help you land your dream job. (We will never sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.)