How to Avoid the Cover Letter Slush Pile

Ode to the cover letter! Or maybe we should say the cover letter cringe? Although many job seekers find this piece of the job search the most challenging one, it doesn’t have to be.

According to J. Maureen Henderson, the author of a new Forbes eBook, Crash Course In Cover Letters: How to Adapt Old-School Cover Letters For The Brave New Digital World, there are several ways to avoid the slush pile.

1. Address your letter to a real person. Henderson says,This might involve doing some digging – check the org’s website or search LinkedIn – but it also demonstrates your keenness and helps you stand out from the “To Whom It May Concern” and “Dear Hiring Manager” pack.” Plus, if the name doesn’t specify whether or not the contact is a man or a woman, simply Google their name or call their office voicemail after hours to get the male/female question answered.

2. Keep it brief. Brevity is key when it comes to writing a rock star cover letter. Her advice? “Stick to three paragraphs – introduction, discussion of how your skills meet the company’s needs and a closing that tells the reader why you want to work at this company and conveys your enthusiasm for the next steps in the hiring process.”

3. Treat email like a hard copy cover letter. Essentially, Henderson points out if you’re applying via email, technically your cover letter should be written in the body of the message itself. “Don’t waste the split-second opportunity you get to hook the hiring manager right off the bat and don’t throw an extra step into their review process by forcing them to open an attachment just to see who you are and why you want the job.”

4. Realize your cover letter isn’t about you. Seriously. Consider it a sales tool. Henderson tells us, “Employers aren’t interested in hearing about your hobbies or a laundry list of accomplishments unrelated to the job they’re trying to staff. Don’t talk about yourself, talk about what you can do for the company based on what you have done for other employers in the past.”