What I think about “generic” cover letters

Often people who ask me to write a cover letter for them tell me they want the letter to be “generic” so they can use it to apply for many positions. Why is this not a good idea?

First, many employers don’t even bother to read cover letters. They know from experience that most cover letters are glorified form letters that simply state the job seekers qualifications without referring to specific company needs. I wouldn’t want to read one of those letters myself.

However, if someone has taken the time to find out exactly what would help a potential employer’s business grow, expand, or save money, that letter will get attention.

Here are some tips to make sure that your cover letter will get noticed.

1. Address the letter by name to someone who has the power to hire you, avoiding the HR department if at all possible. Research the person’s background on LinkedIn and/or Google to see if he or she has been quoted, has contributed to any publications, or has participated in some noteworthy event. Look for something in common that you share. The person will be impressed that you took the time to find out more.

2. Find out specific company needs and how you can meet them. You may have to dig deeply by talking to someone who actually works there or by reading recent news stories. Don’t limit yourself to the company website, as you will get a one-sided impression from the company’s point of view. Try www.glassdoor.com and www.linkedin.com as good resources to find out from insiders what it is like to work at that company.

3. Make your letter short and to the point. No cover letter should be more than one page or one screen long.

4. Say how you plan to follow up, then do it. Never end a cover letter with “I hope to hear from you soon.” Politely take the initiative, mark a date in your calendar to follow up, and keep your commitment.

2 Responses to “ What I think about “generic” cover letters ”


    August 12, 2011

    Thank you for the advice. About 7 months ago I was laid off from my job and I have been doing little bits of work here and there to get by, but I’m starting to get financially unstable and I need to do something to improve my situation fast. In my opinion, and based on feedback from recruiters, my resume needs to be written by a professional to really bring out my skills. So I’ve spent the past few weeks reading about resume services and trying to pick the best one. I’ve found a few resume service review sites, which are helpful, but most of them say the same thing and have similar prices and guarantees. Can anyone please recommend a resume writing service to me, or maybe somewhere I can search for jobs? Thanks in advance.

    Ginger Korljan

    August 12, 2011

    Dear Scott,

    Thanks for writing. If you will click on my resume link, you will see that I write resumes! Also, I recommend you check the National Resume Writers Association website at http://www.thenrwaweb.com you will also find other certified resume writers.

    In terms of where to look for a good job, there is no one best way, but an overall good job website I would recommend is http://www.indeed.com.

    Ginger Korljan


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