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Why Customizing Your Cover Letter is a Smart Idea

Pamela Norman
December 18, 2020

Before I get into the specifics of writing a cover letter, I should briefly address an important question first:

Are cover letters even necessary anymore?

In short, the answer is “yes”. A cover letter helps to introduce you to the hiring manager. Cover letters are used to help a hiring person determine whether or not they should look at your resume and other application materials. A cover letter summarizes who you are, what you’ve done in the past, and how you fit the qualifications of the job you’re applying for. Some companies won’t even look at your resume without one. It’s better to be prepared and include a cover letter with your application, even if it ends up not being used. There may be cases where a company specifically asks that candidates NOT include a cover letter with their application materials, but these are few and far between.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about how you should and should not approach cover letter writing.

NEVER EVER include a “templated” cover letter with your application materials.

Dear Sir or Madam:

I’m writing to you to apply for an IT position at your company. I am up to date with the latest networking and systems technologies and am constantly learning new programming and networking techniques. I am Microsoft certified and have a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems.

I have experience in both software development and network support and can adapt to different IT projects quickly and accurately. In addition, I have worked with both outside vendors and in help desk environments and have a proven track record of quick and effective troubleshooting. I am confident I can excel at your company.

Attached is my resume for your review. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you.

Sincerely,

John Q. Worker

Some people might think that this is a complete and effective cover letter. It’s not too long. It touches on this candidate’s experience, education, and skills. Essentially, it does what a cover letter is supposed to do. So what’s missing? In a word, personalization. This cover letter is completely boilerplate and could be used for almost any IT job the candidate applies for. It doesn’t address anything specific to the company or to the position this person is applying for. A hiring manager can spot a standard template quickly and might dismiss an application for that very reason. As a job candidate, not personalizing a cover letter for a job could give the impression that you don’t care enough about your application or the business to add a few minutes of extra effort to learn about the company.

One quick change that can help personalize a cover letter is to state which position you’re applying for and where you saw it.

I’m writing to you to apply for the “Application Developer II” position as advertised on the TechCorp website.

In addition to personalizing the letter, this helps to ensure that you’re being considered for the right position. It’s possible that an HR person could associate your application with the wrong job opening by mistake. If your submission gets added to the “wrong pile” and the cover letter doesn’t mention the job you’re applying for, your application might get tossed aside without a second thought.

Address the requirements of the job.

For your cover letter to be truly effective, it needs to address the specific position that you’re applying for. Identify the most important bullet points in the job description and tailor your cover letter around these requirements. If the job description requires strong sales, address this directly in your cover letter.

I have vast business development experience in a variety of industries and have exceeded my yearly sales goals over the past 5 years. My sales knowledge allows me to adapt to all manner of sales strategies, from consultative selling to cold calling and everything in between. I excel in solo sales efforts or as a part of a team and I have direct experience selling technical services much like those offered by TechCorp. I’m confident that I’ll be able to directly apply my previous experience to this position.

If a position requires no sales but you have sales experience, don’t dwell on it in the cover letter. Save your complimentary skills for your resume and interviews.

In addition to my vast sales experience, I am also a seasoned manager who…

Figure out the name and address of the person who will be reading your material.

Using many of the same steps to follow up with online applications, do whatever you can to find the name and address of the hiring or department manager. If you can’t figure it out on the company’s website, try doing some research via Google for the answer. If that doesn’t work, try to find the answer via a quick phone call to the front desk. I would rather spend an extra hour looking for a name than use “Dear Sir or Madam” in my cover letters. It adds a personal touch that certainly doesn’t go unnoticed by the manager looking over your application materials.

If you know the name of the department or team you’d be working in, include that in your closing remarks.

I know I would make an immediate impact as a part of the Client Services team and look forward to learning more about this position.

Your cover letter probably won’t get read by anyone but the hiring manager who does initial applicant screenings, if it gets read at all. That doesn’t mean you should neglect this important part of your application materials. Your cover letter could be the thing that convinces a hiring person to want to learn more about you. Take the time to tailor each cover letter to the company and the job you’re applying for, and you’ll find that your application will be much better received.

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