5 edits to ensure an impressive cover letter

After five full years in business (a milestone!), I have easily seen and read over a thousand resumes,  and almost as many cover letters. And although some are pretty good, most are pretty bad. There are many reasons for poor quality writing, but a thorough edit works wonders.

Obviously people who leave sentences like "Here are my qualifications for you to overlook" didn't edit. This mistake alone, pointing as it does to a lack of attention, can cost an applicant the interview. Why should the recruiter pick this one when other applicants have shown an honest interest in "putting their best foot forward," and at least submitted error-free cover letters? Remember, the recruiter's goal is to eliminate as many applicants as possible; don't give the recruiter a reason to eliminate your application.

When editing, consider the following:

  • make the sentence structure straightforward by bringing your subject and verb close together and moving the subject to the front of the sentence.
  • eliminate unnecessary words! no need to say "consistently two-years in a row" consistent and in a row are similar enough!
  • cast a critical eye at where you've placed commas, how you've used semi-colons and whether you need capitals or quotation marks.
  • make sure your subject and verb agree. Singular subject requires singular verb.
  • if you use acronyms (BA for Bachelor of Arts), spell it out the first time you use it. CRM can mean different things in different industries and companies.

The best way to ensure your cover letter doesn't sound lame, reads smoothly and won't make a bad impression is to read it out loud. If you stumble, it means you need to fix something.

New Leaf has a great e-book. "20 Best Cover Letters (Plus One)" offers ideas, approaches, variety in 21 samples. These are meant to inspire your own creativity to produce interesting to read cover letters. You can find it on the Products page. You never know which recruiter will read the cover first, and which will read the resume first. So, how's your cover letter working for you?