Your Cover Letter Must Be Excellent - Use This Checklist

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The Cover Letter Checklist

When you have completed the first draft of your cover letter, compare it to the list below. Some of the items on the checklist refer to content and other items refer to format. As you review this checklist, compare it to your letter and determine if there are any additional changes that need to be made before sending it – and your resume – to the employer.

Yes, this is a bit tedious, but if you want to beat out your competitors, you have to do more than they do and you have to do it better than they do it.

Here goes:

Use the same paper that you use for your resume. They should match. If the papers do not match (or if they are of poor quality), then you might as well not send anything at all. What you are telling the employer is that professionalism is not one of your strong suits.

Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.

Keep the letter to one page. You are not writing your life story.

Ensure the name of the person addressed in the letter is spelled accurately and that you have his/her correct title. No one likes to have his/her name misspelled.

Demonstrate that you have researched the company by including some information in one or more of your sentences.

Sign the cover letter with a blue or black ink pen. This is an old standard, but it is still true today.

Use clear and concise sentences. Be professional, but also conversational.

Sell yourself. This is not a license to use "I" at the beginning of every sentence, but you can state in clear and well-defined langauge what you can do to assist the employer in reaching specific goals. Use active langauge to engage the reader in wanting to know all about you. Generate excitement. When you speak convincingly, your reader will find it easy to agree with you.

Ensure your letter is an original and not a copy – and printed on good/quality printer. Copies are a waste of time. It reflects poorly on you and it sends a clear signal to the prospective employer that you didn't care enough to create a letter specifically for them.

Use the traditional business letter format. Do not get cute in the hopes of standing out. Let your words stand out as they create a picture of your abilities and accomplishments. Don't use more than one font and keep your statements easy-to-read.

Explain anything in your resume that might concern the employer, such as gaps in employment history. Be brief with your explanations and spin them in the best possible light.

Identify the specific job that you are seeking to be hired for. If you let the employer guess what you want to do for them, they'll probably guess something that you weren't expecting, so make it clear for them.

Request an interview and let the employer know that you will follow up at a certain time on a particular date. Simply state that you would like to meet face-to-face to further discuss the mutual benefits of a potential working relationship. Add that you will follow up in a few days to ensure your letter was received.

Grab the reader's attention and don't let it go. Be positive and enthusiastic. Show the reader why you are better than the other candidates seeking the position. Enthusiasm is contagious. Infect someone with your positive attitude. They'll like you before they ever meet you.

Focus on the employer. What can you do for the company? How quickly can you add to the bottom line? Be dynamic and express your desire to work hard to achieve results.

Quantify your experiences rather than rehash them. Instead of saying you helped the distribution center organize its processes, state "HOW" you helped them do this. Be specific and use numbers whenever possible. It means more. It is relevant. It is definable. Your statement might read, "Increased efficiency in the distribution center which resulted in a 15% reduction in overhead. That is a measurable difference.

If you fold your letter and resume, put the cover letter on top and fold them in thirds. Better yet, mail them flat in a larger envelope. Your resume will look better than the others from the start because it won't be creased. Everything matters.

Keep a copy of the cover letter for your records. It is also wise to track the letters and resumes you send out. Keep a copy of everything including newspaper clippings or other job-related information. You never know when you might need to refer to something.

Writing an exemplary cover letter requires attention to detail – the very thing that most employers are craving in their employees. If you can show them in your letter why you are the right person for the job, you will get the interview and be well on your way to the job you want.

Best of luck!

About the Author:

Carla Vaughan is the owner of, a web site devoted to assisting candidates in the job-search process. She holds a B.S. in Business from Southern Illinois University and has authored a book titled, “The Do-It-Yourself Resume Kit” soon to be available on her site.

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