Cover Letter Tips For Job Applicants: Dos & Don'ts

Cover Letter Tips For Job Applicants: Dos & Don’ts

May 22, 2018

It is your chance to shine! The all-important cover letter can land you an interview – or not. According to Interview Success Formula’s “The Job Search Today” infographic, there is an average of 118 applicants for every job opening and only 20 percent get an interview. The cover letter is a big piece of the puzzle. Here are some tips that will help you get to the interview stage every time.


1. Tell the company how you can help. 

Dedicate a whole paragraph to explaining what you can do for the company based on your previous experience. A big mistake is when people focus on how perfect the position would be for them instead of how they can make an impact.

2. Talk about your skills.

Jobs titles or degree abbreviations do not tell the hiring manager what you are capable of doing. Even if you are applying for an entry-level job, talk about the skills you gained working in groups in your classes or through your internships or volunteer experiences.

3. Research the employer first.

Learn whatever you can about the employer before you start your draft. Anything that is company-, role- or department-specific that you can weave in will show the screener you did your homework. Pro tip: Use the company’s voice when writing the cover letter. It will help make a quick connection.

4. Customize your cover letter.

Even if you are trying to apply for several jobs, know that quality is better than quantity. If your cover letter is canned, the hiring manager may get the impression you do not care as much about that particular open role and are just looking for any open position.

5. Be honest.

Sure, you are trying to sell yourself. However, if you start stretching the truth, you may end up in an unfavorable position. If you are hired, and you can’t deliver on what you said you could, you might set yourself up for failure in a very short period of time. Be comfortable with where you are at in your career and look for a genuine next step.

6. Ask for a peer review.

It is a good idea to run your cover letter by another professional, whether that is a friend, your spouse or a mentor. Make sure it is someone you know will tell you the truth and provide helpful advice to improve it.

7. Incorporate keywords in your cover letter.

Before a human even looks at your application materials, most companies use talent management software to sift through it. If you notice certain words repeatedly used in the job description, include them in your cover letter to ensure you pass the automated screening process.


1. Don’t repeat your resume.

The hiring manager will have your resume too, so use your cover letter to talk about the knowledge you gained from being in your last position, not the tasks you handled. Also, add the soft skills you used to do the job right. Use this as an opportunity to be a storyteller.

2. Don’t have grammatical errors.

You may not be applying for a position as an editor, but all professionals should take pride in their writing. After all, written communication is a soft skill necessary for most jobs.

3. Don’t make excuses for the skills you don’t have.

Focus on your strengths and do not point out where you fall short. If it is essential to the hiring manager, they will notice. Do the best you can with aligning the skills you do have with what is detailed in the job description.

4. Don’t use a template.

Looking online for inspiration is fine. But do not download a template and “plug and play.” A canned cover letter will make you blend in with all the other candidates – the ones that end up in the rejection pile.

5. Don’t make it too long.

You are in complete control of how long your cover letter is, so keep it to a page. Remember, they are going to be looking at your resume too. The cover letter should highlight your top-selling skills and not drone on about every detail of your career.

6. Don’t forget a call to action.

You will want to thank the hiring manager for his time at the closing of your cover letter. Then put the call to action in your own hands. Show your interest and motivation for getting the position by saying, “I will follow up with you next week to answer any questions you may have. Please contact me at [insert phone number here] in the meantime.” Then, follow through.

Writing a killer cover letter is definitely not an easy task – it requires thought, time and understanding to make you stand out from all the other candidates who are applying for the same position. So, take time writing the perfect cover letter for the job – it is a great opportunity to impress.


Looking for Resume tips? Check out this post!


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