Thursday, June 30, 2011
What Should NOT Be In a Cover Letter
You probably have a good idea of how to write a cover letter. You probably know all the major points you have to hit to catch an employer's attention. But, do you know what you shouldn't be including?
One of the best ways to get your cover letter ignored is for it to be too long. The last thing an employer wants to do is read something that goes on for an eternity. The inclusion of irrelevant information is one of the main causes of a long cover letter. It's not always obvious, however, what doesn't need to be included. Sometimes things that aren't necessary seem important. The goal here is to help you understand what you can safely leave out of your cover letters.
Your cover letter should not be your resume in prose form. The employer has already read your resume once, so there is no need to include the same information. The goal of any successful cover letter is to put a personality behind the facts in your resume, and to explain why the position you applied to would be a good match. So there is really no need to repeat your job history again. You can go into more detail about a particular job listed on your resume, if it helps explain your passion for the job you applied for. Just don't rehash your job history as if the employer hadn't read your resume. I made the mistake of doing that when I first started looking for jobs. Needless to say, I didn't hear back from many of the places I applied.
Make sure to include a strong closing at the end of your letter. There is nothing wrong with generic closings (e.g., "I look forward to hearing from you in the future), but these can make you seem passive. Try using a stronger closing, something like: "I will call back in the next week so we can discuss the position further." It's always better to sound too aggressive than too passive.
Finally, don't get too personal. Unless there was something that happened in your life that is relevant to why you are pursuing the job, it doesn't need to be in your cover letter. Not only does it take up precious space, it can just make the employer feel awkward. Even if it's not that personal ("I like playing piano"), it more than likely has no relevance to the job for which you are applying. So before you share personal information, stop and think about whether it needs to be shared.
Resume cover letters are not easy to write. Quite frankly, they were my least favorite part of the job search. Unfortunately, they are one of the most important aspects. That is why it is so imperative to make sure it is well written and concise. Following these tips will get you well on your way to that goal.