Modernize Your Job Search Letters: 4 Important Trends

February 21, 2017 Louise Kursmark

To get your letter-writing efforts off to a great start, I have culled these trends from MODERNIZE YOUR JOB SEARCH LETTERS: Get Noticed ... Get Hired.

TREND 1: Cover Letters Become Shorter (But No Less Important)

Recently I reviewed a cover letter that was a full page-and-a-half of densely written text. The information was great! But, realistically, very few people will take the time to read it.

Remember—potential employers don’t yet care about you. At this first stage of the process, they’re searching for reasons to put you in the “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” pile. Don’t turn them off with a letter that’s hard to read and overwhelms them with details that aren’t yet important.

Recommendation: Limit your letter to 1 page and your paragraphs to 3 or 4 lines at most. Make your letter easy to skim and easy to read whether viewed on paper, on a computer screen, or on a mobile device.

TREND 2: Cover Letters Add Value to Online Applications

When an application indicates that a cover letter is optional, should you or shouldn’t you take the time and trouble to include one?

In a word … YES!

When employers screen resumes to choose a slate of candidates to interview, it stands to reason that a lot of the content of those resumes will be similar. After all, the resumes that rise to the top are those that match the job qualifications. When you include a letter with your resume, you can:

  • share additional information;
  • emphasize the aspects of your background that fit particularly well; and
  • create a connection with that exact job and that specific company.

Recommendation: Of course, not every hiring authority will read your cover letter. That’s OK. Write for those who will, and give them information that sets you apart from all of the other (equally qualified) candidates.

TREND 3: Cover Letters Are E-Notes

When was the last time you printed and mailed a letter and resume in response to a job opportunity? If you’re like most job seekers, you probably answered “never” or “not in a very long time.” 

Today, when you are not uploading your letters to an online application, you are sending them via email. And that means your letters should be formatted as e-notes (email message) and not traditional letters.

An e-note has:

  • No letterhead at the top of the page.
  • No need to start with a bland sentence announcing that you’re applying for a particular job. Use the subject line for that purpose.
  • A need to immediately capture attention—no leisurely introductions. Keep in mind that most of your message may be hidden, if viewed on a phone, so give readers a reason to scroll down to learn more.
  • A get-to-the point style with tight content and short paragraphs and/or bullet points.
  • An email signature at the bottom, providing relevant contact information (phone number, email address) and possibly links to your LinkedIn profile, personal website, or other source of online information about you.

Recommendation: Create an up-to-date and professional image by adapting your letter to an e-note format when sending via email.

TREND 4: Good Writing and Correct Spelling and Grammar Never Go Out of Style

Yes, your cover letter is a less-formal e-note or an uploaded file. Yes, it’s to-the-point and dispenses with flowery courtesies that used to be standard. But that doesn’t mean it can be sloppily written, use texting shortcuts, or contain language or spelling errors. 

Employers judge candidates on the quality of the documents they submit in a job application. After all, these are indicative of the quality of work you will do for that employer if you are hired. 

Recommendation: Just as you take pains with your interview appearance, take the time to carefully write and even more carefully review the letters (and resumes) that you send—so that you make your best first impression.