If you want recruiters to read your resume, then you’ll need an enticing cover letter to convince them. Your cover letter is your introduction to a new recruiter or hiring manager, and it can be the difference between a potential employer opening your resume or clicking “delete.”
The aim of a cover letter is simple: to persuade a recruiter to give your resume a chance. Unfortunately, many job seekers’ cover letters fail to do just that.
What’s holding your cover letter back? It could be one of these five things — which you should cut immediately:
1. ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
A generic, non-personal introduction evidences your lack of research. By starting your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam,” you give recruiters the message that you’re sending the same blanket emails to everyone.
Instead, you need to take time to personalize your cover letter. Use the name of the recruiter or HR rep you are contacting. This will create an immediate connection, making your recipient much more likely to keep reading.
Lack of information is no excuse. If the contact’s name is not included in the job advertisement, a quick search on LinkedIn should be enough to uncover it.
2. The Extra 500 Words
Having a lot to say is fantastic — but save it for the interview, not your cover letter.
Your cover letter is best thought of as a quick, concise note. Recruiters are busy. They do not have time to read an essay on why you are the ideal candidate. Just a couple of punchy paragraphs will quickly get the message across and persuade a recruiter to open your resume.
3. The Separate Attachment
You have to send your resume as a separate attachment. That’s the only way to preserve the format. However, there’s no need to make a recruiter open two separate attachments.
Instead, your cover letter should have pride of place in the body of your email. Not only does this save the recruiter the hassle of toggling back and forth between multiple attachments, but it is also much more effective. A blank email — or one simply stating “Please find attached my cover letter and resume” — hardly entices anyone to keep reading.
4. Granular Detail
Your cover letter should not repeat your resume; it should only lead recruiters to your resume.
Remember, you only have a few paragraphs to capture and keep a recruiter’s attention. There’s no room in your cover letter for the granular details of your employment history and skill set. Besides, that information is already in your resume.
Approach your cover letter as a high-level summary. Give just enough information to make the recruiter eager to learn more.
5. The Formal Tone
Recruiters want to know that your skills and experience are up to snuff, but they also want to ensure you are the right fit for the organization. Most recruiters are looking for an approachable and personable human being. If your cover letter is rigorously formal, you may come across as cold and uncaring. Instead, use a warm, friendly tone to convey a bit of personality. Give recruiters the sense that you are someone they’d enjoy chatting with.
Andrew Fennell is a former recruiter and founder of StandOut CV.
Andrew Fennell is founder of the UK-based CV writing advice website StandOut CV. He is a former recruitment consultant and contributes career advice content to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian, and Fast Company.