General Notes & Tips
Formatting is important! Learn how to fucking format a standard block style business letter. Google that shit. Find examples.Remember that a cover letter is basically you on paper and will reflect your writing ability and style. Don't just take a form letter from the internet and send it off. The hiring manager will notice something fishy when your cover letter uses an entirely different vocabulary and vernacular than you use in real life. Also, if you don't know what words like vernacular mean, you should look them up and at least try to step up your writing game before tackling the cover letter. On the other hand, if you're pretentious as fuck (like myself), then go all out, but try not to sound stale and scripted.Stay formal and professional! This is not an email and this is not the time to pal around with someone you've never met.Keep it short. A long letter is daunting and looks exhausting. A hiring manager might just skip over it. Do not go over 1 page. Ideally, stick with half a page of actual text.Write more than one draft.
Now, I'm going to break this down into the basic pieces you need. Just follow this format and you should be okay.
Contact Info, Address, & Salutations (go read a children's book if you don't know what that is)
Put your contact info right at the top (according to block format) and MAKE SURE IT'S CORRECT. If you put the wrong phone number, that's on you. Don't make them look around for your number on a different document, because, frankly, they're not going to.If you have a unique header on your resume, use the same header on your cover letter. You'll look all coordinated and shit. But if you have a crazy header, leave it off. And take it off your resume. Act professional, goddammit.Address it to a specific person whenever possible. If they don't list a specific person (it seems like more and more often this is the case), then don't write it to anybody. Avoid vague, stale things like "to whom it may concern."
Clearly state the position for which you are applying in the first damn sentence. Don't waste anyone's time.Just be really straightforward and succinct throughout. Cut the bullshit and get to the point. You're applying for a job, this is the job you want, and here's why you'd be damn good at it.When mentioning the position, you can also say how you found out about it. This will show you did your research, but it's also nice for HR to find out where the hell you came from and which of their hiring efforts is paying off.In this same opening paragraph, give a quick 1 or 2 sentence intro to why you're a great fit or why you're even interested in the position in the first place. Yes, we know, you need money and you're desperate, but try to be a little less transparent.Mission statements. Mission statements are nice because they say hey, here's what I'm about and here's what I want to do. But mission statements are tricky because they come off as kind of cheesy. "I want to ensure that every customer has a positive, life-changing experience, no matter their purpose." Um. Okay, but you're applying for greeter at Wal-Mart. Dial it back, dude.
This is where you need to sell yourself and basically make your entire case. This is going to really determine whether or not you get a call for an interview.Don't talk about why the company would be a good fit for you. Talk about why you'd be a good fit for them. Remember, you're not the one with the power here. Your life and career is in the hands of whatever paper-pushing HR rep got stuck reviewing your pitiful application.If possible, use specific language from the job posting. This will show that you've actually read the posting and understand what will be expected of you in this position.Be specific. Vague comments will make your letter seem generic and like you use the same letter for everyone. You probably do, but don't let them know that. If you mention you have a particular skill or achievement, reference that shit. Give concrete examples!Don't be over-confident. Don't say you're the absolute best person for the job. Rather, explain why you would be a good fit. Don't just outright say you're better than everyone else—prove you're better than everyone else.Quote testimonials! Did your boss write something really great in your last performance review? Use it! Those comments count for more than just your personal compliment piggy bank. Stuff like this gives your letter more credence. It's not saying "this is why I think I'm great," it's saying "this is why other people think I'm great."Do some research! Find out what the company does and what their mission is. Look up their history and delve deep into their website. Know what the fuck you're talking about, basically. Don't just say "I want to work at a great company like yours," tell them why their company is great and why that specific thing appeals to you. Stop being so generic! Show an interest!Do NOT give them your whole life story. No one fucking cares. Don't tell them that you're looking for a job because your truck fell apart and your wife left you and your dog got hit by a train or whatever else happens in sad country songs. No one wants to hire a depressed egomaniac.Stay positive! See above, re: country music.Feel free to use bullet points. Or not! It's up to you. Write to your strengths.Don't just repeat what's on your resume. Expand! Add things that couldn't fit on your resume.
Again, straight to the point. Review why you're interested in this position and what you have to offer.Be brief.Do not simply repeat Opening Paragraph. Seriously, I shouldn't have to tell you this.
End with "sincerely" or "respectfully yours" or something equally formal. Do not just put your name (be respectful!) or close with something like "love" or whatever it is teenagers use to sign letters. I honestly don't know what that is because 1) I'm old as shit and 2) I'm not convinced teenagers actually know how to write letters.
Okay, now proofread the hell out of that shit. Send it to someone else to proofread it as well. Someone who is more qualified than you. Like a teacher or a guidance counsellor or someone with an English degree.
One final word of advice: KEEP ALL YOUR OLD COVER LETTERS.
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