12 tips for writing a better cover letter

Writing a solid cover letter can help you gain a competitive edge in a tough IT job market. Here are some tips that will help move your resume into the 'yes' pile.

cover letters
Thinkstock

Cutting and pasting isn't going to get you that interview or job. Each day job seekers send out cookie-cutter cover letters that aren't helping them get a foot in the door. They need to be creating customized cover letters that help distinguish them from the hundreds of other applicants out there.

Writing a solid cover letter can help you gain a competitive edge in a tough IT job market. To help you get that interview, CIO.com spoke with industry experts to glean the tips that will help move your resume into the 'yes' pile.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

First, Always Send a Cover Letter

"My advice is to always include a short cover letter as you won't know the employer's propensities ahead of time and you may miss out on an opportunity to sell yourself. Every chance to tell your story is something you should take advantage of," says Doug Schade, principal consultant in the software technology search division at WinterWyman.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Create a Custom Cover Letter

"Customize your cover letter for each position," says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, a global IT staffing firm. Cover letters shouldn't be form letters. Each one should be unique to a specific company or position you are applying for

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Federico Caputo

Know Your Prospective Employer

Find out as much as you can about the prospective employer and the role you are applying for. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Glassdoor or other review sites. "Show that you know the company well, that you've done your homework, and that you're familiar with the challenges and opportunities in their industry -- or better yet, at their organization in particular," says Ford Myers, author of "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring."

Click here for more sites that will help you research your next employer.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Don't Repeat What You Have in Your Resume

There's so little space, so there’s no room for redundancy. "Illustrate the specific skills you bring to the table and how they can help that employer," says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, a global IT staffing firm.

"Highlight and expand upon the most relevant facts on your resume," says Ford Myers, author of "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring."

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Get Your Grammar and Punctuation Right

Have your cover letter reviewed by friends or peers. "You can have a spot-on profile and the perfect resume, but if you have grammatical and spelling errors or use slang--if it doesn't immediately disqualify you--it puts you at a big disadvantage," says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, a global IT staffing firm.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Keep Your Cover Letter Concise

The experts agree that the ideal cover letter should be short and succinct with about three paragraphs. "A cover letter should be focused and no more than one page," says Dave Denaro, vice president at Keystone Associates an IT staffing firm.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Make Your Cover Letter Personal

Experts agree that it's wise to try to figure out who the hiring manager is and address your cover letter to that person. LinkedIn or Facebook will likely yield the answer but you could also simply call and ask.

"It's going to make the person who receives it comfortable because you've done your homework," says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, a global IT staffing firm.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Briefly Outline Your Accomplishments

According to John Reed with Robert Half Technology, when speaking to relevant accomplishments, "you are demonstrating to the employer that 'I've read your job description.  I think I understand what you are looking for. I can do that job and do it very well and here's why.'"

Choosing your accomplishments to add to the cover letter smartly will help demonstrate that you've dealt with the same types of problems they are currently dealing with and more importantly how you can help.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Create a Consistent Package

You should try to create a uniform appearance between your cover letter and your resume.

"You want it to appear like a consistent, unified and integrated package. It should mirror your resume in style and font," says John Reed with Robert Half Technology.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Convey Your Passion and Excitement

"Identify a next step.  For example: 'I'll follow up next week to discuss meeting you in person.' That conveys that you are excited about the position and about meeting in person," says John Reed with Robert Half Technology.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Use Appropriate Keywords

"It's important to use keywords to a point," says John Reed with Robert Half Technology. You don't want to force anything in there, so try and keep it natural-sounding. Also make sure you and your prospective employer are both calling an apple an apple.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

cover letter
Thinkstock

Use the Right Format

You want to make sure your cover letter and resume are locked down in PDF format to prevent any unintended changes. This is your data after all and often it's the only impression a prospective employer will get prior to a phone or in person interview.

For step-by-step details on how to create an effective cover letter, see 13 Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter.

Related stories: Spotlight hot skills on your resume

Career Watch: New ways to find a job