You can wipe the sweat from your brow. Finally, you’ve completed the excruciating yet exciting task of crafting your cover letter.
The only fear that remains to be conquered on your quest to apply for this job is hitting “submit” — but what if you find glaring grammatical errors and more afterward?
Give yourself a break as a reward for writing your cover letter. Make yourself a cup of coffee and sit down, because you need to give it one last once over. Double-check these nine crucial things before you hit submit:
1. Name of the Hiring Manager
Remember in school how you sometimes received one bonus point for writing your name on the test? Getting the hiring manager’s name right is just as vital to making sure your application doesn’t get scrapped all together.
“To Whom it May Concern” is dated. While “Dear Hiring Manager,” is a safe bet, it’s also generic, and your cover letter and skill set are anything but that.
Make your best effort to track down the name of the hiring manager, and take the time to spell it correctly. If you’re in doubt about how to address the hiring manager, don’t use a title. Skip the “Ms./Mrs.” and “Mr.” and opt for the complete name.
2. Your Name and Contact Info
You may have passed the test of writing down your name, but did you spell it correctly? Writing a cover letter can be nerve-wracking, and the easiest mistakes are understandably made. How often do you double-check your name and address?
Did you adjust any name change on your application materials, resulting from a marriage or divorce? Did you just move? Don’t forget to make these important changes and updates to your cover letter.
Don’t forget the best phone number and email address to reach you. If your email address includes your name, it’s more professional and easier for the hiring manager.
3. The Correct Name of the Company
Corporations often have many subsidiaries and go through mergers. What company are you specifically applying to?
This is very important to get correct, down to the “Inc.” on the end of the name. The company’s name is a reflection of their reputation, and the proper use of their name shows you respect and understand that reputation.
It also helps to make a completely separate document for each application so you don’t risk forgetting to swap out the company name from your last application. You may even want to include the company name in the title when saving so you don’t accidentally upload the wrong document.
4. Are the Dates Correct?
Incorrect or inconsistent dates happen when you use the same cover letter and resume repeatedly and try to switch out the information. As the years go by, dates get fuzzy when the application materials require an exact date of employment.
For your cover letter, double-check the date of post for the letter — when it was written — and the language you’ve used in the body of the cover letter. If your letter is over two years old, would you have worked in a prior position since then?
5. Spelling and Grammar
May the curse of autocorrect and spellcheck not affect your cover letter. Avoid this feared debacle by buckling down on your spelling and grammar.
You’ve probably read over the file on the computer so much that it feels burned into your brain. So, print the cover letter out. Why? Fingers can slip and type incompressible phrases and add letters in places. Your tired screen-glazed eyes miss errors more easily.
Prove to the employer you have those “good communication skills” listed in the job description. Get your highlighter or red pen ready. Print out an initial, double-spaced copy in a larger font so you can make notes between the lines and your eyes won’t blur the words together.
Look for commonly misspelled and misused words, such as “affect” vs. “effect,” “its” vs. “it’s” and “your” vs. “you’re.” Skimming through the cover letter backwards will also help shake your brain out of its tired state and catch errors quickly.
I also love using Grammarly to double-check spelling and grammar, although it’s not always 100% reliable so make sure you still do your own check.
6. Does It Read Well?
Seriously, read it out loud. You’re not a slam poet, but it could be fun to read it that way. Is it dry? Is it boring?
The tone of your cover letter is important. Just as you should avoid word choices that aren’t specific or clear in your resume, the same should be done in your cover letter. Does your cover letter reflect your personality and what you bring to this position?
Have someone read the cover letter to you. If no one is around, use the computer voice in your program. Hearing it will help you make adjustments, and in an interview, a hiring manager may quote something from your resume as they discuss your candidacy.
7. Fix Formatting Issues
While you were checking spelling, grammar and usage, you may have noticed some paragraphs were bigger than others or the body text was too close together. Break up big paragraphs and leave enough white space so your cover letter is easy to read. Remember, hiring managers see many cover letters every day.
Don’t unnecessarily shrink your font to make your cover letter fit on one page. Sure, lengthy cover letters are one thing that hiring managers despise, but don’t go about it the wrong way. You don’t want to make the hiring manager squint.
8. Character Length
In certain cases, you’ll have to input your cover letter in an application box that has a character length restriction. If your cover letter risks getting cut short, the hiring manager never gets the full story about your amazing professional experience.
Copy and paste your cover letter into a word-count site to double-check. Then, you’ll be prepared to pare it down or create a shorter version.
9. Avoid Conversion Nightmares
If only every computer and software program opened every file successfully and as beautifully as it was designed on the original computer. If only. When the hiring manager opens your file, there’s the potential that it converts your carefully crafted cover letter into a strange alien language or formats it nightmarishly.
Place your resume and cover letter into its own time capsule. Freeze it into place by saving your file as a PDF. Double-check how your cover letter looks across different computers or platforms.
It always helps to double-check your cover letter one final time before hitting submit. What are some glaring errors you’ve noticed when sending your cover letter too soon?
What advice do you have for others when it comes to giving your cover letter the once over? Continue the conversation by commenting, and subscribe to Punched Clocks for great career advice and assistance!
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