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August 13, 2021

What's the best way to write a cover letter?

Since someone I’m close with – and, given the times, chances are someone you’re close with – has struggled with the nasty task of writing cover letters recently, why not take a sunny Friday to discuss the merits of how best to put one together?

1208423_woman_using_computer Because, despite a national unemployment rate that’s now on the rise again, there may be no better time.

And you’d be amazed at how easy it is to screw one of these things up.

There’s a handy little article on the Financial Post’s website now from Cathy Graham, an exec at CV Management Inc., a Canadian recruiting/employment firm, who details five key cover letter tips.

Before we get to those, the basics: cover letters, of course, are those pain-in-the-ass-to-write documents that accompany your résumé, or – perhaps as they should be known – the only chance in hell you have of separating yourself from a stack of faceless job applications the size of Steven Slater’s flamboyance.

As always with professional paperwork, there are the essentials to consider. Don’t spell things wrong. Don’t slip up with regards to typos. Make sure your grammar doesn’t make you sound like Orson Welles.

But then, the specifics. Graham covers these nicely in her top five. Here’s a sampling:

1. "Address the letter to the hiring manager or recruiter.” – Like this one, because – as Graham notes – it shows you haven’t been lazy and have actually researched who will be doing the hiring or considering for the position. And, I have to think each HR person or recruitment director gets a little flattered every time this happens. Everyone likes being called by their name, right?

2. "Open your letter with an explicit reference to the key skills asked for in the position description.” – Another tidbit, I think, not quite widely understood by the job-seeking public. Each job posting, especially those online, have bullet-pointed skills the employer desires. Address these specifically and showcase not only your qualifications but also your respect for whoever put together the job posting, who, again, is probably the HR personnel considering your application.

3. "Keep it to one page.” – This is Cover Letter Writing 101, but I imagine it always gets lost in the fray. After all, no one ever wants to read anything too long when it’s about something they really don’t care abo … actually, we should probably wrap this up.

Please remember to check out MSN’s careers page for any other job-related queries you’ve got.

Anything we’ve missed? What tips would you offer for writing a cover letter?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo), canoe.ca, AOL.ca, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...