Let’s be honest, writing a cover letter is a big ol’ pain in the rear. Cover letters are tedious and time consuming, and when you’re applying to multiple jobs in a short period of time, the last thing you want to do is write something perfect for each position. As someone who reads hundreds of applications, however, I’ve got to say—ing one (or providing a very general one) sends to potential employers.
In OneTeacher’s first edition of “quick tips,” we’ll offer some practical advice for improving your cover letters. While we can’t make them any less of a bother to write, we can help you ensure that the effort you put in is worth your while.
- Follow directions. If a potential employer asks for a cover letter, you have to include one. This seems like a no-brainer, but if you fail to include something an employer specifically requests, it can indicate that you’re not detail-oriented or that you’re not actually that interested in their open position. Failing to include a cover letter also means that you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to explain why you’re the perfect candidate for the job you want. They’re giving you a chance to make your case—take it!
- Make sure it’s tailor made. It’s easy for employers to see when you use a general version of your cover letter instead of writing one specifically tailored to the position you’re applying for. The purpose of a cover letter is to explain in no uncertain terms that you are both qualified and passionate about the role and company you’re applying to. Your cover letter is really the only chance you have to make these connections for the hiring team. Pull information from the job description, the company’s website, and your own resume to make your cover letter specific enough to compel your future employer to move you through to an interview.
- Get specific. Citing specific examples from your own experience to showcase how you possess the qualities and qualifications listed in a job description is a great way to make your application come alive. It’s easy to keep it vague in a cover letter, saying you can and will do the things the employers want. It’s much more compelling, however, to provide evidence through specific examples that you already have experience doing them.
- If you’re changing careers, address your career change. It may be clear from your resume that you’re changing careers, but your cover letter is your opportunity to explain why. Employers want to hire people who have dedication, grit and dependability—a career change can signal a red flag in one of these areas if it’s not explained properly. Be sure to address not only why you’re making a change but also what steps you’re taking to prepare to break into a new field. This shows that you’re making a conscious, intentional choice about your new path and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make up for lost time.
- Proofread your letter. I can’t stress enough how important it is to put your best foot forward in your application. It’s a huge turn off to receive a resume or cover letter that appears not to have been proofread. Get someone to read your letter before you send it to ensure that your application represents you in the way you want it to.
- Save it as a PDF. When your letter is final and you’re feeling great about it, save it as a PDF to preserve your formatting. Without a PDF, the document is often altered by application platforms and may not look the way you want it to. Being sure that the letter you worked so hard on looks as great as you intended is well worth the extra 5 seconds it will take you to save your letter as a PDF before sending it.
What other suggestions do you have for improving a cover letter? Comment below!
Take a look at OneTeacher’s first blog post, “Someone Like Barb: One Teacher’s Lasting Impact” and stay tuned for future “Quick Tips” about the application process, teaching, and more!