In my recruiting experience, I rarely read a cover letter.  I just didn’t have the time.

With that said, most recruiters and hiring managers DO read cover letters and they can make the difference between landing an interview or a trip to the circular file.

Here are some tips for success on cover letters:

  • First, use a cover letter to introduce yourself to the recipient.  If you are connected to that person through networking, specify that person’s name in the first sentence. “Good morning, Ms, Smith.  I am writing to you at the suggestion of XX who I believe you know from YYY.”
  • Next, connect your background with the job at hand. This will give you the opportunity to highlight your most relevant experiences for a specific job.  ”While waiting tables at the Coach Grille, I had the opportunity to exceed customer expectations, manage multiple priorities and think on my feet, which I believe qualifies me for a position in your customer service department.”
  • Use a bulleted format to make it easy to read.  And, keep it to 2 or 3 short paragraphs.  Today’s recruiters don’t have any more time than I did…
  • A cover letter can also be used to explain a change in location or careers.  ”A major in chemical engineering taught me how to analyze and methodically solve problems.  I look forward  to using that skill in your research department.”
  • Finally, ALWAYS use spell check and good old fashioned proof reading for every letter you send. Mistakes happen all the time and a typo will get your cover letter and resume in the circular file for sure.

Susan Kennedy is the Founder of Career Treking, a job coaching firm that specializes in helping college students and graduates identify and find the right job. Since 2005, Susan has helped countless college grads find their ideal position and career path, regardless of college major. Susan has also published a book, The Job Coach for Young Professionals. You can find Susan on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @SusanCareerTrek.