‘Tis the season – the season for job hunting, that is. For many people, selling yourself once you land a job interview is a breeze – it’s figuring out how to land the interview that’s tricky. If you’re anything like me, writing the perfect cover letter is the most daunting part of the job search.
When I was applying for positions not too long ago, I scoured countless articles on how to write the perfect cover letter. After reading article after article and sending out quite a few cover letters of my own, I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two. However, the thought of my first cover letters makes me cringe – I know I’m guilty of making some of these common cover letter mistakes.
Here are some cover letter do’s and don’ts to help you land that interview with your dream company!
- Show off your design chops. While this certainly isn’t true for all industries, we appreciate good design in public relations. (If you don’t believe me, check out our previous blog posts here and here.) Eye-catching design sets you apart from the sea of letters in the same old 12 point Times New Roman font. Creating a personal logo is a great way to make your application materials stand out. Put it on your resume, your cover letters and your portfolio.
- Personalize it. Do a little digging on the company website and find out whom you should address the letter to. If you can’t find a contact person on the website, pick up the phone. It’ll take 30 seconds to ask and it shows you’re willing to put in a little extra effort. You should also tailor the content of the letter to the company. To really stand out, go deeper than the basic “I admire your core values.” Do a Google News search for the name of the company and top executives to find a recent article you can tie into your letter. If the company hasn’t had any publicity lately, search for any relevant industry news you can reference (and then recommend they hire a PR agency, like the Bradford Group!).
- Embrace bullet points. Hiring professionals are busy people. Chances are they don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to reading your entire cover letter. Keep it short and sweet by highlighting your most noteworthy accomplishments with bullet points.
- Send out a generic letter. It’s painfully obvious when somebody sends out a generic, fill-in-the-blank cover letter. Blasting out a ton of identical cover letters probably isn’t going to get you many interviews. It’s better to take the time to tailor each individual letter. You might send out fewer letters, but you’ll see a better return on your investment.
- Forget to proofread. Nothing will get your application discarded faster than a cover letter with typos – especially in the public relations industry. Writing is at the core of what we do, so it’s crucial to proofread your application materials. Read it out loud and then ask someone else to look over it for you. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes will catch a mistake you missed.
- Brag about yourself. Sure, you’re supposed to talk up your skills and accomplishments, but don’t spend the entire letter talking about how great you are without referencing why it would be beneficial for the company to hire you. Make sure to loop your skills and accomplishments back to what you can do for them.
For even more career-related advice, check out Alex’s blog about what we wish we had learned before graduation.