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So I don’t think I posted this officially on SC yet, but I have a full-time (unpaid) internship this summer at a staffing agency! It’s really exciting and I’m learning a lot…especially about what not to do when looking for a job. I know that we stress all the time about every small detail, and the reality is that it they count, but not necessarily in the way that we think. So here’s what I think, starting with your cover letter. (Really though, this is only what I think. I’m not a professional!)

DO NOT…always submit a cover letter.
Seriously. I screen through at least a hundred resumes every day. You’re crazy if you think that I read the whole cover letter for each person. It’s not even needed (mostly) until the interview stage. I find that cover letters are most useful when you know who is interviewing you.

DO…make sure your spelling and grammar is correct.
Because it would suck if I read the one sentence that was grammatically incorrect.

DO NOT…fill the whole page.
Again with the whole I-am-seriously-not-going-to-read-this idea. The bigger your chunks of text, the more likely I am to skip over it because the information isn’t condensed enough for it to be worth my time. Use key words, and condense your information. Filling about half the page and then leaving the other half for formatting is my preference.

DO…address the correct person and job.
Like I said earlier, you should have a cover letter when you enter the interview stage. By then you should know who is going to be interviewing you, so include their title and full name. (If you’re not sure for women, use Ms. and not Mrs.) Also, include which job you are applying for, especially if you are using a staffing agency. We get confused and overwhelmed very easily…help us out.

DO NOT…write in size six font.
I don’t even know why this happens on cover letters because there really isn’t that much information to include. Regardless, I do not want to squint in order to read what you wrote, and in fact, I will not. Anything smaller than size 12 (Times New Roman) or size 10 (Arial) and it takes too much effort to read it. So I probably won’t.

DO…include information that isn’t on your resume.
When I skim your cover letter, I don’t want to know about your experiences. That’s what your resume is for. Draw attention to important positions, sure, but first tell me what you want out of a job. Let me know what your goals are in the future, and how this job is going to help you get there.

I’ve gotten really good at skimming cover letters. I gather everything important (i.e. I find key words) and automatically ignore anything that will be included on your resume. I don’t know how this started happening, but it did. Make your cover letter count; make it short and sweet. Stop stressing about where that comma goes. It’s seriously not worth your time.

Image courtesy of fullyreclined via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).