The Do’s and Don’ts of Cover Letters

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cover Letters

When applying for jobs, you will most likely be required to fill out some sort of application form along with your resume. But many organizations also give the option for applicants to provide a cover letter with their application, leaving job seekers wondering if they should submit one.

One thing is for certain, cover letters give applicants an opportunity to explain to the hiring manager why they are a good fit for the specific position they are applying for. Additionally, in some organizations, cover letters can help you stand out to hiring managers . In fact, OfficeTeam found that nearly 90% of executives find a cover letter valuable when screening candidates.

While cover letters can be beneficial in showing a potential employer your valuable skills, they need to be written thoughtfully, as incorrect formatting and spelling errors can take you out of the hiring process before you even get an interview.

Read below to learn how to tailor your cover letter so you land your dream job in no time.

Research the Organization

One of the first things you should do before you start writing a cover letter, is to research the organization that you are applying to. A good place to start is to learn about their industry, products/services and values.

An advantage of researching the organization is that you can tailor your skills and experience to best reflect that position and industry. For example, you find a job posting for an engineering company that specializes in concrete manufacturing, you can include your specific skills in the cover letter that will make you more appealing for the position. Additionally, you can highlight your experience that is most relevant to the company and describe in greater depth your responsibilities and accomplishments that may not be covered on your resume.

Researching the organization does not mean you have to know every single detail of the company and the industry that they serve. But by having a basic understanding of their products and services, you can craft a thoughtful cover letter that is relevant to the company.

Having an understanding the organization is not only beneficial for your cover letter, but it is also helpful if you make it to the interview process.

Keep it Brief and Include Contact Information

A typical cover letter is around one page in length, which is around 300 words. Going any longer than one page when it is not necessary could hurt the screening of your application. According to Indeed, employers only spend six to seven seconds looking at each application they receive.

With this processes being such a short time, you want your cover letter to be brief, but also help you stand out against other applicants.

To keep your cover letter brief, try not to go into heavy detail on your career. You’ll want to outline your career and skills without going into specifics about everything you’ve done. A great start is to simply state your professional background, talk about what industry you currently work in and summarize a project or skill that shows how you are a good fit for the position.

While it is important to keep your resume brief, make sure that you do not omit or forget to include contact information. At the top of the cover letter, you should include your name, email, phone number and city that you live in. By not including this information, a potential employer may not know how to contact you if your cover letter gets separated from your resume. For clarity and to be safe, it is best to have your contact information included on both your cover letter and resume. 

Think of Your Cover Letter as an Extension of Your Resume

In cover letters, it is important to highlight your skills and experience, but make sure you are not repeating details that you have already included in your resume. Your cover letter is an opportunity to expand on specific, relevant experience that is included on your resume. By repeating descriptions that can be found on your resume, the hiring manager could feel that you are simply copying and pasting cover letters for multiple applications without giving too much thought into their specific position.

Also, by repeating details, it makes the point of the cover letter worthless. The cover letter is to show how you stand out and are a good fit for the specific role that you are applying for. Simply repeating your generic skills will most likely not benefit you in the hiring process.

Address Your Cover Letter Personally

Job postings tend to get a lot of applicants and it can sometimes be overwhelming for hiring managers to read through all of them. According to Zippia, an average corporate employer receives roughly around 250 job applicants per job that they post.

With this large amount of job applicants, personalizing your cover letter can help you attract the attention of the hiring manager and stand out amongst other applicants.

Some ways to address your cover letter personally is to include:

  • “Dear Hiring Manager at (Insert Name of Organization)” or “Dear (Actual Name)”
  • Include the organization’s name throughout
  • Address specific values of the company and how they relate to your skillset

Spending the extra time and effort to add some of these personal details to your cover letter can help you be a stand-out applicant and hopefully get you to the phone screening and interviewing process.


When professionals are looking for a new job, many apply for more than one position at a time. According to Zippia, it takes 21 to 80 job applications to get a single job offer. With this high number of applications, job seekers are likely sending multiple cover letters to different organizations. To save time, many applicants reuse sections of cover letters for different applications.

Make sure you completely re-read your cover letter multiple times to ensure that proper grammar and spelling are used throughout. Also, be sure to check that you are addressing the correct company and the specific details of the reasons why you would be a good fit align with their position.

If you turn in a cover letter that has the name of the wrong organization, reiterate skills that are not needed for the position or just have no relevance to that job posting, it is easy to assume that the hiring manager will omit your application due to lack of attention to detail.

To avoid these disasters, consider asking a peer or colleague of yours to proofread your cover letter before you send in the application to get a second opinion.

Writing a cover letter can take time, but when it is done well it can make you stand out from other applicants and help you obtain your dream job.

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