How to open and close your cover letter
On a cover letter, formality is rarely a bad thing.
Write your cover letter opening and closing with these tips.
In a tight job market flooded with resumes and cover letters, it’s a given that your documents and messages need to be error-free. So how else can you distinguish your communications? Appropriate openings and closings that convey professionalism and polish.
Use our tips below on how to start your cover letter with a proper greeting and sign off with a polished signature. And if you need additional writing tips, join Monster today, so the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service can help you impress employers with a high-impact resume and cover letter.
Cover letter openings
Write a formal greeting, such as Dear Ms. Alvis or Dear Mr. Yang. If you're unsure of the person’s gender and can’t find out, write the full name, as in Dear Chu Li or Dear Chris Beltran.
While it is increasingly common to see greetings without the "Dear" in business, it is less formal. When applying for a job, sometimes you want to start off formally, even though you may take a less formal tone in subsequent written exchanges.
If you’re unfamiliar with someone’s name, be sure you don’t confuse the first name with the family name, which can easily happen in today’s global business environment, depending in part on the languages you know. For example, the CEO of Lenovo is Yang Yuanqing. His surname is Yang and his first name is Yuanqing (in Mandarin, the family name is written first), so if you are addressing him, you would write Dear Mr. Yang and not Dear Mr. Yuanqing.
A final comment on people’s names: be sure to spell them correctly. That is one typo no recipient will miss.
What if you cannot track down a contact name for your cover email? Use a generic salutation, such as Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Recruiting Manager or Dear Human Resources Professional. (Avoid To Whom It May Concern; it is antiquated.) Another option is to write Greetings, which is somewhat informal but polite. You could also dispense with the opening greeting altogether and start with your first sentence, although some recipients might find that approach to be abrupt.
In all openings, be sure to capitalize the first letter of every noun and follow your greeting with punctuation. Use either a colon (Dear Mr. Yang:) or a comma (Dear Recruiting Manager,).
Cover letter closings
End your message with a formal closing, such as Sincerely, Regards or Best regards. If your closing contains more than one word, capitalize only the first word, as in Best regards or Sincerely yours. And be sure to put a comma after your closing. A common error in business communications is the omission of that comma.
Your full name goes on the next line. No need for the extra space that used to go on letters for the signature. Write your telephone number and email address on separate lines after your name. Although this contact information is on your resume (and your email address is on your email), including it with your cover message makes life easier for the recipient.
This post is by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene, authors of The Business Style Handbook, An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job
Don’t Make These 8 Cover Letter Mistakes
by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Your cover letter shows employers how well you express yourself. It can also demonstrate that you are savvy in the ways of marketing yourself and selling your best qualifications. A good cover letter can entice the recipient to review your resume.
A bad cover letter, on the other hand, can nip your chances in the bud. Here are ten common mistakes that contribute to bad cover letters. To ensure that your cover letter is effective, avoid these missteps
1. Don’t skip the cover letter.
Sure, there are some employers that don’t place much importance on cover letters. That said, it’s impossible to know whether the employer you are contacting places value on candidates’ cover letters. Don’t skip this step. A cover letter doesn’t have to be complicated but you must include one.
2. It’s not about what the employer can do for you but what you can do for the employer.
This mistake is particularly common among inexperienced jobseekers. In most cases, employers are in business to make a profit. They want to know what you can do for their bottom line, not what they can do to fulfill your career dreams. Tell the employer how you can meet the company’s needs and the contributions you can make to the company.
3. Avoid a boring or formulaic cover letter.
Don’t waste your first paragraph by writing a boring introduction. Dive right in by using the first paragraph to grab the employer’s attention. Tell the employer which position you are applying for and summarize the reasons you are qualified for the role, expanding on your qualifications in later paragraphs. Don’t use such clichés, rather do your best to write a dynamic cover letter. Write a letter that will make the employer want to get to know you better.
4. Proofread your cover letter… and then proofread it again.
Typos, misspellings, or incorrect grammar and punctuation can send your application right into the trash pile. Your letter reflects your ability to write and communicate, and your attention to detail. Be sure your document is letter-perfect before sending it out. Proofread your letter. Put it down and proof it again a few hours later with a fresh eye. It’s also helpful to enlist a friend to review it for errors, or to use a tool like Grammarly to help you check your work.
5. Don’t use your cover letter to rehash your resume.
Use your cover letter to highlight the aspects of your resume that are relevant to the position, but you’re wasting precious space — and the potential employer’s time — if you simply repeat your resume. Cover letters are an opportunity to expound upon bullet points in your resume. Ask yourself: What experience is on my resume that I’d like this employer to know more about? Choose one or two items and write a short paragraph about each.
6. Cover letters aren’t one-size-fits all.
It’s okay to have a basic template for your cover letter, but when you’re answering an ad or online job posting, the specifics of your letter should closely mimic the wording of the job post. A good job post will let you know exactly what the hiring manager is looking for in a candidate, so tailor your letter to address these specific qualifications. Do some research into the company and try to read between the lines to see if your experience lines up with these values in any way. For example, if you are applying for a job at a company the sells educational products that help children succeed in school, mention your time spent as a volunteer tutor. It’ll show that you share the company’s values and that you understand the value of its product line.
7. Keep your letter short but sweet.
Brevity is a skill, so do your best to keep your letter brief. It should never be more than one page but a good rule of thumb is to keep your letter to four or five paragraphs of no more than three sentences apiece. Using bullet points to outline skills and experience that might be of interest to the employer is a good way to break up blocks of text and draw attention to specific items. Your cover letter is a marketing tool that should focus on the qualifications that will sell you to the employer. Be sure to include yourUnique Selling Proposition. Using clear, simple language, your Unique Selling Propositions should answer these questions:
- What makes you unique?
- What makes you better than other candidates applying for a similar position with this company?
- What can you offer that no other applicant can?
8. Use strong language to describe your skill.
Avoid such phrases as “I feel” and “I believe.” Your statements will be much stronger without them. It’s best to either leave off the qualifier or use a stronger qualifier, such as “I am confident,” I am convinced,” or “I am positive.”Here are some examples of weak statements versus strong statements:
Weak statement: I believe my background provides me with unique qualifications . . .
Strong statement: My background provides me with unique qualifications . . .
Weak statement: I feel very confident that I would be an asset . . .
Strong statement: I am confident that I would be an asset
Weak statement: I feel I can help the ABC Corporation to become more efficient . . .
Strong statement: I am convinced I can help the ABC Corporation to become more efficient . . .
Helpful Cover Letter Resources:
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Jobseeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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