A cover letter should strike a balance; it should be concise and to the point without being too skimpy and depending too much on your resume to do the work for you. Elaborate on your qualifications, transferable skills, and your fit with the position. The letter must be sharply focused and avoid needless detail and autobiographical ramblings.
The letter should use simple language and uncomplicated sentence structure. Ruthlessly eliminate all unnecessary words. Follow the journalist’s credo: Write tight!
The letter should set the right verbal tone and appeal to the reader by seeming confident without being arrogant, by being interesting, and by projecting the image of a person the employer would like to get to know better. The letter must consider the employer’s perspective, focusing on how you can contribute to the employer instead of how the employer can advance your needs and career goals.
In my role as a resume and cover letter writer, I often get requests from customers that go something like this: “Just give me a general cover letter that I can use for any kind of job.” Sorry. No can do. Well, I can do it, but I certainly don’t recommend it. A cover letter needs to be specific in every way. Otherwise, it’s a fairly pointless document.
It’s perfectly okay if some parts of your letter are the same from cover letter to cover letter. But be very specific when describing your skills and qualifications. Determine the skills and experiences that specifically qualify you for the job you’re applying for, and describe those in your letter. Following are example paragraphs from a photographer looking to transition into a sales career. Both letters are for account-executive positions, but the letter writer stresses slightly different skills in each letter based on the qualifications listed in the ads to which she is responding: