5 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter

Success Is in the Details

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Looking to pursue a new job at a school? Perhaps the time has come for a career change, or you need new challenges, more money or just want to further your career. Whatever the reason is, you've decided to dive back into the wonderful world of job searching. The problem is, however, that you haven't looked for a new job in years. You know that you have to update your resume and begin the job search. But what else is involved in this process?

For starters, finding a job in a private school is not like finding a job in any other field. It's all delightfully old-fashioned and un-electronic. What am I talking about? If I were looking for a sales job, I would post my resume on Monster.com or some other online jobs board. To find a private school job, you need to review the postings on a school's website or on one of the national or regional private school association websites, such as NAIS. Then, apply with a well-written cover letter and a resume.

A common misconception is that if your resume is really impressive, then you don't need to invest much time in your cover letter. However, for many employers, if your cover letter isn't equally impressive, it's entirely possible that your resume will never get read. First impressions are lasting impressions. Most people spend about twenty seconds reading a cover letter, so it has to make your case clearly and effectively. So how do you write an effective cover letter? Check out these great tips.

Say something that isn't on your resume

Often, people make the mistake of assuming that a cover letter for a job application only has to state that you are applying for a position and that your resume is included. But really, your cover letter is your opportunity to tell the reader why you're the best person for the job. Don't just recite what's already in your resume, give some detail that your reader wouldn't otherwise receive. This is your shot to sell yourself.

Make no mistake about it (meaning, proofread)

The most important caveat in a cover letter? Make no mistake about it. Absolutely no errors. Your cover letter must be perfection itself. A typo, a poor printing job, a misspelling - mistakes will make a poor impression because they imply that you don't care. Many employers receive hundreds of applications for just one open position, and if you're careless on your cover letter (or resume for that matter), they assume that you're going to be careless in your job. It doesn't matter how qualified you may be. If you need to, get several other people to proofread for you. 

Use a formal writing style

It's important to remember that in today's day and age of text speak and casual emails, that you maintain a formal style of writing in your cover letter. Proper spelling and grammar is crucial.

Simple is Best: Avoid fancy fonts and colors

You are not creating a flyer or a poster. So use a business font. Avoid trying to be cute and colorful and creative. Unless you're applying for a designer's job, simple and classic is best. Designers know how to show a little flair (emphasis on "a little" flair) to stand out, but if you're not a designer by trade, don't get fancy. You run the risk of being distracting and losing the reader. 

Keep it short but purposeful

Your cover letter should be one page in length and succinct. Say a lot with your powerful words, but don't carry on. Avoid repeating yourself, saying unnecessary things and avoid repeating the same information that your reader will find in the resume. This is your chance to expound on your resume and explain what sets you apart from all the other candidates. 

A Note About Using Templates

There are literally hundreds of cover letter templates available online. While it may be tempting to just cut and paste the one you happen to like, don't do it. That's dishonest and conveys the wrong impression about your ethics and judgment. Always write the cover letter in your own words and make it unique to the school you're applying to; saying the same thing to every school isn't going to help you. Find a way to craft a message for the specific school that will receive the letter.

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski