Cover Letters That Work

by Brian Skory

I have found that many technical people do not know how to effectively write a cover letter to accompany a resume submission. A cover letter is your opportunity to positively stand out from the other candidates by showing the hiring manger that:

  • You understand the position and what is being looked for in a candidate, and
  • You are very possibly a great fit based on your particular skills and your particular experiences.

With this in mind, let's talk about some best practices for an effective cover letter.

Use the cover letter to discuss how you qualify for the position.

List the technical skills and experiences you have that relate to the position, and BRIEFLY state how you feel they would contribute to this particular position.

Or you can bullet list the job’s requirements and comment on how you qualify for each.

Every cover letter should be tailored.

Keep your cover letter short (lots of white space on the page).

Honestly, a hiring manager will probably just jump to the resume rather than tackle a mountain of text in a cover letter. If it’s too long, you will sacrifice the advantages to be gained from a good cover letter.

Good editing consists of getting rid of every non-essential word. Trim up those lengthy sentences.

If you're responding online to a position, the body of your e-mail will function as your cover letter. Here it is even more important to keep it brief and to the essentials.

Tone down anything that will come across as presumptuous.

Don't use verbiage that conveys the message that you are the perfect fit for this position. It is unrealistic at this point of the game to make that assumption.

Again, you are simply looking to maximize your chances of the hiring manager taking a further look at you to see if you are a good prospect. To come across otherwise in your cover letter is simply presumptuous and a potential turn-off to the hiring manager.

Speaking of presumptuous, following are examples (along with my corrections) of presumptuous verbiage I often see in cover letters.

 "With my skills and experience, I will be a significant contributor to your business."

 "With my skills and experience, I am confident that I could make a positive contribution to your business."

 "I look forward to speaking with you in person."

 "I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you in person."

By keeping these points in mind, you can have an effective cover letter that will maximize your chances of being put in the "for further consideration" pile.

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