The topic of cover letters comes up often here. Many new writers want to know if they’re really so important, and if so, what should a good cover letter include. I’m here to tell you I believe them to be very important, even if they’re not specifically requested in the advertisement. Cover letters are a given. I’m not an expert on cover letters, but I believe between all of us we can work out the do’s and don’ts. I’d also like to offer a cover letter clinic so we can all learn how to craft a killer letter and land more gigs.
Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts
- Make it short and sweet – A cover letter shouldn’t be longer than a page or shorter than a paragraph. Three paragraphs are ideal.
- Include your achievements and accolades – If you won awards or wrote for a major magazine, include that in the cover letter. Since many potential clients don’t look past the cover letter, you want to give them a reason to move on to the resume.
- Include a brief work history – Brief is the key word here. Don’t list all of your employers and the years you worked, that’ s what a resume is for. But do feel free to name drop.
- Include your areas of expertise – Tell the client why you’re right for the job.
- Make it too long – Make it easy for the client, let him see all of your information “at a glance.” Remember, he may read dozens, if not hundreds, of cover letters.
- Talk about personal issues – Clients want to know you can do the job. They don’t want to know you’re a stay at home mom struggling to make ends meet or you’re a homeless musician.
- Be too familiar – Don’t try and be funny and don’t address your client by her first name unless invited to. Don’t use text messaging type abbreviations or make an attempt at being “hip.” Very few people can pull off humor in a cover letter.
Cover letter clinic
So lets have a cover letter clinic. It can be anonymous so no one gets embarrassed. Send them to me (or post) and every day I’ll post a couple and we’ll discuss why it’s great or what might need more work. Let’s figure out a great formula together.