Expert Q&A: Real Answers to Tricky Cover Letter Questions
Cover letters are tricky business. They're the first step to getting your foot in the door. This is where you convince the hiring manager that you're a real person. After which, they'll review your resume and decide if you're someone they'd like to interview. If the cover letter isn't up to par, the hiring manager may still glance at your resume. They may even read it. But they will have doubts, and doubt won't likely get you to the top of the candidate list.
Got questions about creating the perfect cover letter? Check out these answers to some of the most common cover letter questions.
If I don't know the hiring manager's name, how should I address them in the salutation?
Avoid "Dear Sir or Madam" or a variation thereof, as well as the dreaded "To whom it may concern." They not only come across as cold but it sounds like a template. You may be able to find a name by contacting the company and asking for the hiring manager handling the position. If not, address the letter "Dear Hiring Manager." Other variations include "Dear [COMPANY NAME] Team" or "Dear Recruiter."
How long should the cover letter be?
Cover letters should be as concise as possible. Never more than one page. The opening should mention what position you're applying for, and how you learned about it. The second paragraph should explain, in as few words as you can, why you're the perfect person for the job. The next paragraph can contain any other relevant information you believe will help the hiring manager. The final paragraph should repeat your interest and let the hiring manager know you'd be happy to meet at their convenience.
Can I use a cover letter template ?
It's important to personalize every cover letter you send out. But a template, like LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder , is an excellent way to start. You can find templates that target specific industries and positions, like advertising, administrative assistant or nursing. They can be edited and tweaked to fit your requirements.
What's the best format?
When it comes to these tricky cover letters, there is no best. Though we advise against it, some like block paragraphs. (We think it looks impersonal.) Some like to slip in a bullet list because people do love bullet lists and it's a great marketing tool. Some prefer Helvetica to Times Roman. Review a number of templates and find one that suits your style, but feel free to play with any format.
A lot of hiring managers are asking for resumes through email. Is this okay?
Anything the hiring manager wants is okay. But unless they specifically ask for a cut and paste of the cover letter and resume directly into the email, we'd advise you PDF the material and attach it to the email. They may ask for a WORD document, but if given a choice go with a PDF. Either way, they can still see your material in a neat format. They can even print it out.
Navigating tricky cover letters doesn't have to be a daunting task. Once you get the basics, and better, once you start seeing positive results like getting the interview, you will see why putting a little effort into it is necessary. For an extra push, use LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder and cover letter examples to help you go from template to polished cover letter writer.