What Your Mom Never Told You About Cover Letters

Are you wondering if you should bother writing a cover letter? Who’s going to actually read it anyways? Cover letters are a point of hot debate. If you ask friends, colleagues, recruiters, human resource professionals, or even your mom, you’re likely to get mixed advice.

Most job applicants say cover letters are a waste of time, never get read, wind up in the garbage, and frankly don’t matter. Unfortunately, in many cases, they are right. Most of the time, they don’t matter. Because they are boilerplate letters, poorly written, and sloppily put together.

What mom never told you is, when it comes to the job market, the stakes are high. Great cover letters do get noticed by hiring managers.

You can use a cover letter to elevate your chances of getting an interview; especially if you can convince them you are qualified for the job.

Carefully addressing it to the hiring manager, highlighting relevant experience, and following traditional format guidelines are a few simple principles you can use to make your letter a standout piece.

Since you’re likely to put your toe in the water only once every few years, why not invest the time you need to make it pay off? You remember mom yelling at you about working harder, right?

Putting in the extra effort, going beyond the necessary, and pushing just a little further than most, is exactly the type of employee who gets hired.  Here are the top eighteen cover letter tips that will increase your chances of getting an interview and making mom proud!

Top 18 Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts for Software Sales Professionals Who Always Go the Distance

1. Understand the goal. Cover letters work hard; they have a lot of work to do! A cover letter needs to formally introduce you, showcase your relevant skills, demonstrate your professionalism, and get your resume opened by the right person. That’s a lot to accomplish in just one page!

2. Decide your cover letter matters. A good cover letter will help you get noticed and increases your chances of getting an interview.

3.  Set the right tone—enthusiastic, courteous, diplomatic, and polite. It will take work but if you sound professional and enthusiastic people will want to respond to you.

4.  Always customize your letter to the company, position, and hiring manager. Since you’re in sales, getting a contact name is especially important. It shows off your attention to detail, commitment, follow-through, lead generation skills, executive communication, and professionalism.  It also puts you miles ahead of all the rest, exactly where you want to be!

5. Tailor your cover letter’s message. Don’t recycle the same letter for every application because it’s not going to help. Some paragraphs can be reused, but the skills you decide to underscore should be well matched to the job opening.

6. Draw attention to specific sales wins, achievements, and experience relevant to the job. If the opening states industry or target market know-how is required, then make sure to feature that experience in your letter.

7. Pair general statements with specific examples. Providing quota numbers, percentages, client company names, and more to support the traits and skills mentioned will elevate your letter.

8. Bring up any relocation plans in your letter, this will provide context when applying for out of state openings.

9. Avoid non-traditional, gimmicky, and creative letters that turn readers off. They create barriers between you and the reader. You want to connect with your reader by writing a polished business letter.

10. Employers screen heavily for the most specific experience listed in the job description. This is the experience you want to emphasize in your letter.

11. Cover letters are not life stories and should be limited to one page. All it takes is a few words to make a strong first impression.

12. Edit and pare down long paragraphs and remember crisp, not dense, is best.  

13. Make every word count. Each paragraph should be no more than three or four sentences.

14. Use proper formatting, font, and style. Cover letters are formal documents, and should be conservative. Proper format is one page, four or five paragraphs long with 1 inch margins.

15. Use basic fonts: Georgia, Arial, Bookman, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Verdana and Garamond.

16. Don’t waste the reader’s time. Keep the introduction brief, to the point, and avoid being overly witty, clever or funny.

17. Use direct language. Refer to yourself in the first person, not third person. “I have 5 years of executive sales leadership experience in the financial technology sector,” is preferred to “David Jones has 5 years of executive sales leadership experience in the financial technology sector.”

18. Proofread to make sure all spelling and grammar are correct. Double check recipients name, title, address, date, etc…

Thoughtful and properly crafted cover letters are one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd. You have the opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism, skillfulness, and call attention to relevant work experience and sales success.

Take the time to study these tips, and you’ll soon be on your way to having one of the best cover letters in the applicant pool. Mom would be proud!