The New Cover Letter for the Information Age

By Kathryn Klett on February 12, 2014
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Cover letter. Résumé. Speak these words in a crowded room of college students, and if you listen closely, you might hear silently breathed moans of despair. Them ain’t no fightin’ words, but they can elicit visceral memories of hours of agonizing over qualifications and formatting, aligning and spacing and getting things just right - and that’s not counting the email they may be attached to.

In today’s online world, where the in-boxes of potential employers are flooded with hopeful emails from students they have never met, it seems that nothing short of excellence is required to separate you from the hordes. Misspelled words, bad grammar, and all sorts of other things can land your application in the trash bin. Businessmen looking to hire could be going through applications while watching a football game, too, and your goal is to grab their attention, and in the right way (instead of the wastebasket way).

You’ve heard this many times, but here it is again: one of your greatest tools is to be concise. In the Information Age we live in, everything is faster and more tightly packaged. It’s a good idea for your cover letter to fit that mold, too! A potential employer might not even get to your cover letter if your introductory email comes across as generic, so here are a few tips to get those shining qualifications to catch your prospective boss’s eye:

1) Combine

Make your cover letter your email. A traditional cover letter is about one page long, but a busy reviewer won’t necessarily have time to go through paragraphs and paragraphs of text if you don’t initially stand out. Introduce yourself, briefly state why you are interested in the job, and then pick three or four of the strongest qualifications you have on your résumé and include them in your email.

2) Bulletize

Good formatting directs the eye, drawing attention to where the author wants the reader to focus. Take those strong qualifications and describe them, briefly and concisely, in bullet form. As the reviewer reads down your email: Bam! Bam! Bam! Your strong points will catch the eye and pop out clearly from the middle of your email, standing out from what might otherwise be a wall of text.

3) Short, Sweet, and Snappy

Somewhere in here someone said to be concise? Again, be direct and succinct; little is much. Cut out fluffy language, and don’t puff yourself up or come across as arrogant. As always with these sorts of things, describe your talents in terms of how they will best support the company. Once you’ve introduced yourself, described why you are interested, and put your strongest skills in bullet form, just finish. Inform the reviewer that your résumé is attached below, and that you hope to hear from them soon. Include your name, phone number, and email, and edit, edit, edit!

This formatting gets a load of information out quickly and grabs the reader’s interest, bringing a potential boss to your résumé, the document that you really want them to see. Set yourself apart by going with a clean, sleek, and efficient style similar to this one, and you’ll find yourself perfectly adapted to a competitive environment where you can stand out and shine.

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Hi there! I'm a biologist turned journalist and businesswoman, and I'm here to tell you about the people in this world. Come along with me and figure out where I'm at on all sorts of issues - or just where in the world I happen to be! Feel free to read my stuff here, follow me on Twitter, and check out my blog; no matter what, it's going to be an adventure.

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