Judging a Book by its Cover: How to Write a Cover Letter

If your life were an autobiography, what would the dust jacket say about you? The cover letter is the dust jacket of your resume, and the recruiter’s first introduction to your voice.

Most cover letters are read last. But, before you stop reading this article, remember that any materials that make it as far as a “hold” pile will be read, from cover letter to references. It is then that cover letters matter most, as they have the power to distinguish intriguing possibilities from average, everyday candidates. Laura Gassner Otting suggests the following:

Top Ten Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Do keep it to one page. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
  2. Do personalize each letter.
  3. Do craft each cover letter to the specific job and recruiter, mentioning the position and organization in the first sentence.
  4. Do match your skills to the job responsibilities and be specific when describing your relevant job experience.
  5. Do set yourself out as unique among a pool of applicants.
  6. Don’t distinguish yourself by the color and texture of paper.
  7. Don’t be so brief that the employer must go on safari to find information.
  8. Don’t misspell the name of the person you are addressing.
  9. Don’t load the letter with jargon.
  10. Don’t create charts and tables.

WAI Staff

Whitman Associates is a professional staffing agency serving businesses and job seekers in the Washington, D.C. area. Since 1972, we’ve been dedicated to matching highly qualified candidates with a wide variety of temporary, temp-to-hire and permanent positions. We prioritize the needs of both our clients and candidates to ensure successful, lasting relationships.