PORTLAND -- They say don't judge a book by its cover, but many hiring agents will judge job candidates by their cover letters.
“It establishes your interest in that particular company and opening,” said Gwen Butler, legal recruiter for Boly Welch.
Butler has sifted through hundreds of cover letters and said she knows a good one and a bad one when she sees it.
“A good cover letter needs to be easy to read,” said Butler. “Use a nice, clear font but not cursive. Use some space, bullet points and make sure that the format is aligned and consistent. For example, don't have periods in some areas and leave them off in the next part,” she added.
Next, Butler said applicants should proof-read their cover letter, then proof read it again - and again.
“I see so many covers with typos throughout and grammatical issues,” she shared. “It's like, if you're doing that on your best behavior, what are you going to do when no one's looking?”
Next, Butler suggested making sure your cover letter is professional, but still “human.”
“I like it to sound like it's genuine and it's coming from you,” she said. “I don't like a lot of ‘corporate speak.’ Just keep it simple, as though you were talking to them.”
Butler said it's important to keep your cover letter short. He suggested using just three brief paragraphs.
“You need to include why the position caught your eye, why you feel confident walking into it, why your skill set is a good match and what they offer that you're looking for,” she said.
Butler said it’s important to customize every cover letter for each job application. Also, find out who's doing the interview and use their name on the cover letter.
“Chances are,” she said, “it's not ‘To Whom it May Concern."