Five Rules of Cover Letter Etiquette

Your cover letter serves as a booster to your resume – the resume does the playing while the cover letter does the cheering, giving the hiring manager the best impression of your application.

Unfortunately, despite its critical role in getting hired, many job candidates spend eternity developing their resumes, treating cover letters only as an afterthought. This can be a huge mistake as the cover letter is your instrument to have your resume get noticed.

Send a cover letter

One of the first cover letter etiquette rules is to always send a cover letter. Whether the hiring manager did not ask you for it or you are way too busy to make one, make sure that you always accompany your resume with a cover letter. It is the proper business etiquette, giving you the chance to sell yourself for the job position.

Focus on what you can do for the company

You are in serious trouble if every sentence of your cover letter begins with "my" or "I". What you have to do is to show what you can offer to the company, not what the company can do for you.

You need to do some research about the potential employer, the organization’s goal, the problems faced by managers there, and the qualities they need from their employees. Use your cover letter to demonstrate that you are what they are looking for.

Being concise is a virtue

Hiring managers are too busy to waste their time wading through cover letters that could pass for academic essays or doctoral dissertations. Be concise. Make sure that you are direct to the point. Break long paragraphs into shorter and more easily digestible ones. Try to write a very convincing letter in a few brief paragraphs.

Make it personal

You should address your cover letter to a specific person, whenever possible. If a job advertisement does not include the name of the hiring manager, do your research and find out who the person is. You can call the company and ask for the person’s name. But please respect job postings that state "no phone calls." The salutation should always be professional. Use "Dear Mr. Andrews," not "Dear Joe."

Make the letter professional but friendly

While your resume is a formal document, your cover letter should reveal your personality. The cover letter is your chance to make your reader to want or like you. Make sure that you use appropriate humor in a professional and friendly tone. This can endear you to the employer or the hiring manager.


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