Career Advice: How to Rock Your Cover Letter

Fifty-seven. That’s the average number of resumes hiring managers receive for each open creative position, according to new research by The Creative Group. How can you stand out in such a crowded field as you’re pursuing a career in interactive design? One way is to pair your résumé with a cover letter.

In recent years, however, many job seekers have forgotten about this important self-promotional tool. Big mistake. In another survey by The Creative Group, more than 9 in 10 (91%) executives said cover letters are still important as they consider candidates for a job.

Here are some tips on crafting a compelling cover letter:

Take the short and sweet approach. More is not always better. Limit your letter to three or four crisp, clear and concise paragraphs. You don’t need to tell your life story. The objective is to pique the interest of time-strapped hiring managers, nudging them to take a closer look at your résumé and portfolio.

Don’t just rehash your résumé. Research the firm or agency you’re targeting and craft a customized pitch detailing how your skills, accomplishments and experience make you ideally suited for that specific role with that particular company.

You also can use your letter to connect dots and offer clarifying information. For instance, if you’re transitioning from print to interactive design, you might include a paragraph explaining the reason for your career change and highlighting your transferable skills.

Steer clear of superfluous statements. Some job seekers mistake the cover letter for a blog post or journal entry. While showcasing a little bit of personality is fine, remember that it’s still a business document. Leave out information that isn’t relevant or could cause people to question your professionalism.

Focus on the organization’s needs. Emphasize what you can do for the company – not what you hope to gain from the position. It’s presumptuous and off-putting to mention the salary, benefits or perks you’re seeking. Here’s a real-life example of what not to write: “I am looking for a very high salary. Send me your compensation offers with your job offer in an e-mail.”

Revise, revise, revise. Writing isn’t everyone’s forte. If you lack confidence in your abilities, build in some safeguards. Beyond running spell-check, proofread your cover letter several times both on screen and paper. Ask a friend (a copywriter, perhaps) to review your document for tone, style and structure, as well as any spelling, grammatical, punctuation or syntax errors you might have overlooked. Just one or two typos can hurt your chances. Don’t give an employer any cause to question your communication abilities or attention to detail.

Finally, follow all directions. Companies frequently provide specific instructions for applying in the job posting, such as submitting your cover letter and resume in a certain file format or referencing the job title or requisition number. Before you upload your letter or hit the Send button, reread the ad to make sure you’ve done everything the employer asked. The first applicants eliminated from consideration are those who don’t.

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