Cover Letter Basics

The cover letter is the first thing that recruiters and HR executives see on a candidate’s job application. So, a badly written one can serious hurt the candidate’s chances of getting the job. In fact, an overwhelming majority of recruiters agree that they would not consider applications which have a badly written cover letter.

In other words, it really helps to put some thought into what you write and how you present your cover letter. Here are some of the basics of cover letter writing that every job candidate should know and follow, regardless of their field, industry, and position.

Do not make these common mistakes on your cover letters 

There are a number of common mistakes made with cover letters that can easily be avoided if you know what to look for. Here are some of these mistakes:

  • Not naming the specific job- It is common for companies to put up ads for several openings at the same time, even if you do not see them yourself. Name the job you are applying for after the salutation.
  • Using form letters- Quite a few job applicants use a single form letter and fill up the details of companies whenever they apply for jobs. This is a mistake. A cover letter should make a personal connection, so it is important to tailor each letter for the company you are applying to.
  • Repeating information- As a general rule, do not repeat information on your cover letter that is already covered on the resume. Use your cover letter to show information that you cannot write in your resume. For example, you could explain a key achievement in your previous job and how it helped the company, or you could say how you solved a tough problem at your last office.
  • Focusing on yourself- Your cover letter should mention why you want to apply to the company, and this statement should focus on the company more than yourself. Avoid saying that you want to join their company because of greater opportunities or an easier commute.
  • Showing overconfidence- A cover letter should showcase your competence and confidence, but not arrogance or overconfidence. Avoid writing cover letters that seem to say, “I am the best, get rid of the rest!” Maintain a positive attitude, but do not overdo it.

Follow the cover letter basics

A cover letter can be personalized to a large extent, but some style basics need to be followed. Given below are the basics that ever cover letter must maintain:

  • Your salutation should have a name; do not write generic ones like ‘To whom it may concern’
  • The first skills you write and highlight should match the ones that the employer has mentioned in the ad
  • Write a good lead sentence to capture attention
  • Mention the specific job and write the cover letter in the same style and language as the ad
  • If the cover letter is electronic, send it to yourself first to check for any formatting errors that could happen when downloading the file.

Remember that the cover letter is a small but very important part of your job application. Pay close attention when writing it and be very careful about the basics mentioned here.