I just returned from the UNITY12 conference in Las Vegas where I had an opportunity to lead a panel discussion of recruiters sharing job search tips. We spent a good amount of time discussing cover letters so I wanted to share some of those tips.

  1. If the application instructions request a cover letter, be sure to include it. (you'd think this is a given, but recruiters and hiring managers see a lot of applications without them. Don't be that applicant.)
  2. Avoid cover letter templates that are clearly boilerplate. It's important to personalize your cover letter to the organization. More on that below. (If you do use templates, BE SURE to double-check the company name before sending. Listing company A when you're applying to company B will sink your application)
  3. There are 3 things you should convey in every cover letter: a) why you're interest in the organization b) why you're interested in the role c) why you would bring to the role or team. The last point is important, as it allows you ro present yourself as someone who is bringing solutions to the problems this job is trying to solve.
  4. Make sure your cover letter does not exceed one page. This is a general rule.  There are exceptions in situations where you're asked to answer multiple questions or provide lengthy feedback. Anything more than a page runs the risk of not being read when a recruiter or hiring manager has hundreds of applicants to consider.

There was a great article shared by Craig Fisher (@Fishdogs) recently, Best Cover Letters of 2012, with examples of cover letters you might want to review for inspiration. A key point to consider is cover letters won't even be read if the resume doesn't align with the role, so make sure your resume is strong first. What advice would you have?

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