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Writing Cover Letters: Cover Letter Checklist

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by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., and Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

 

Your cover letter (also sometimes referred to as a letter of introduction, letter of application, or employment letter) is a vital part of your job-search correspondence package.

 

Think your cover letter is ready to be seen by employers? To be sure, use this checklist to guarantee that you've written the most dynamic (and powerful) cover letter possible.

 

Cover Letter Checklist for Job-Seekers

 

Cover Letter Basics:
Do you understand the strategic importance of cover letters? See our article, The Basics of a Dynamic Cover Letter.
Do you have a basic understanding of how a cover letter should be written? See our article, The Dynamic Cover Letters Formula, as well as some sample dynamic cover letters.
Are you planning to send employers any cover letters via email, as part of your electronic job-search? Before you do, see our article, Tips for a Dynamic Email Cover Letter.

 

Appearance and Inclusion of Vital Information:
Is it an original letter rather than a mass-produced copy?
Is the letter in a standard business-letter format? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Is it clear where the employer can reach you during business hours? Have you ensured that either a person or a machine will take the employer's call?
Is the letter neat and attractive?
Have you enhanced the letter's reader-friendliness through use of bullets or other special formatting? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Is it no longer than one page?
Have you signed your name boldly and confidently?

 

Writing Style:
Is every word spelled correctly? Is all grammar, syntax, punctuation, and capitalization correct? Is the letter free of typographical errors? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Does the letter tell why you are writing, as well as grab the reader's attention in the first paragraph? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you used action verbs? See our Job-Seeker Action Verbs, as well as this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Is the letter concise and to the point? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Does it avoid such cliches as "I have taken the liberty of sending my resume enclosed herewith"?
Have you avoided such phrases as "I feel" and "I believe," which tend to weaken and dilute the statements you make about yourself?
Is the letter sharply focused? Have you avoided needless detail and autobiographical ramblings? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.

 

Tone and Appeal to the Reader:
Is it confident without being arrogant?
Is it interesting?
Does it project the image of a person the employer would like to get to know better? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you read it from the employer's perspective?

 

Avoidance of Major Cover-Letter Mistakes:
Is it addressed to a named individual (unless it is a response to a blind ad)? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
If it's a response to a blind ad, is the salutation nonsexist? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you left out everything negative? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Is it specific? Have you spelled out what kind of job you're looking for? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial and our article, Cover Letter Success is All About Specifics.
If it's in response to an ad, does the letter speak to the requirements of the position? See this page, as well as this page, of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you told the employer what you can do for the company rather than what the company can do for you? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you requested action and told the employer you'll call for an appointment? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you used caution with "willing to learn" statements so the employer isn't reminded of training time and expenses? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you avoided pleading for favors or sounding desperate and "willing to do anything?" See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
If you're a recent grad, have you avoided over reliance on an academic frame of reference?
Have you avoided rewriting/rehashing your resume in your cover letter?
Have you avoided describing your personal objectives in vague terms?
Have you avoided listing hobbies or interests unless relevant to the position?

 

Enhancing the Value of your Cover Letter as a Job-Search Marketing Tool:
Have you added more credibility to the value judgments you make about yourself by attributing them to a professor or former employer(s)? For example, "My former employers can attest that I am a motivated hard worker."
Have you taken advantage of your networking contacts by referring to someone the employer knows? See this page, as well as this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you presented your Unique Selling Proposition? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you made use of the use of PEP Formula? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you listed accomplishments? See our article, For Job-Hunting Success: Track and Leverage Your Accomplishments.
Have you quantified and given examples of accomplishments that demonstrate your skills wherever possible? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you demonstrated your knowledge of the company you're writing to? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
If a college student or new grad, have you made the most of your college experience? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.
Have you ensured that your letter is not too skimpy and doesn't depend too much on your resume to do the work for you? Have you elaborated on your qualifications, transferable skills, and your fit with the position? See this page of our Cover Letter Tutorial.

 


 

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 Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

 

Katharine Hansen, PhD, QuintCareers.com Creative Director Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

 

QuintCareers.com Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

 


 

Have you taken advantage of all of our Career Checklists for Job-Seekers?

 


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