Ok, last one on cover letters for now!
In the previous 2 posts (Tip #1, Tip #2) we shared
- How to tailor your Cover Letter for each application and
- How to Say Something New; Don't Repeat Your Resume
Now, time for Tip #3…
3. Make it Readable (by a 10th grader!)
While the content of your cover letter is most important, making sure it reads well and easily to the (time-constrained) Hiring Manager is also critical. Most importantly, it must be
- Error-free. At a minimum, run spell-check!
- Gut-Checked: It is also worth waiting to hit submit. Don't send it in the moment you're done, but have a look at it with a fresh pair of eyes (or borrow someone else's) before you commit it into the system.
- Written in the appropriate style/tone for your target audience: If the company/position you're applying to is very formal, then make sure your opening/closing and descriptive language play to that. If it is more casual, even a little tongue-in-cheek, then you can be a bit more expressive in how you describe your excitement, skills etc. A good way to gauge this (if you don't have chance to talk with the team) is by reading both (a) the job description but also (b) the company website. Job descriptions often default to being overly formal and/or dry, even when the company/team is not, so it is worth checking out their website too - that should give you as good a sense as possible of the culture (outside-in) and hence how to tweak your language accordingly.
- Adverb light! It is all to tempting to add them in, but over liberal use of "very" or "extremely" or "immensely" etc. can start to sound insincere. Deploy them sparingly!
- Easily readable - not too wordy or overly complex. A great trick here is to run your text through an app like Hemingway , which will give you an objective view of sentence length, complexity, passive tense usage etc. If you follow the recommendations, you'll end up with tighter, simpler prose :)
How to take action now!
Let's pick "Adverb Light" and make a quick improvement to your Cover Letter. Count how many adverbs you have in there now. If you're not sure what counts you can check here for help identifying them. Now, try to reduce it to 1-2 per paragraph - that way you can be sure there are several sentences and/or bullet points that are adverb free :)