What Can and Can’t You Reuse In A Cover Letter?

By Rachel on in What not to do. Permalink.

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Since a good cover letter is customized to the job you’re applying for, it’s not a good idea to reuse the same letter more than once.
That said, certain parts are…not boilerplate, exactly, but maybe a little less important to customize.

For example, you may start your cover letter very straightforwardly:

“Please consider me for your open editor position at Widgets, Inc. I’m a skilled editor who has been working with technical written materials for five years, mostly related to widgets.”

You would then segue into a paragraph or two that is specific to the job listing…you know, “I’ve always admired the Widgets, Inc. brochures and thought that they struck a nice balance: they explain the complicated technical aspects of your product without ‘talking down’ to the reader at all.”

And you’d close with “My resume is attached. I look forward to meeting with you.”

Clearly, the first and last paragraphs are ripe for reuse. But you might want to think twice before you simply copy and paste.

What if you want to reuse your Widgets, Inc cover letter at Chocolate Teapots Inc, you’ll want to revise your first paragraph:

“Please consider me for your open editor position at Chocolate Teapots, Inc. I’m a skilled editor who has been working with technical written materials for five years, including a stint in the chocolate industry, where I discovered my passion for cocoa-based dishware.”

As I sit here typing this out, it sounds banal and obvious. But here’s what many people do:

“Please consider me for your open editor position at Chocolate Teapots. I’m a skilled editor who would be a great asset to your company.”
“Please consider me for your open editor position at Widgets, Inc. I’m a skilled editor who would be a great asset to your company.”
“Please consider me for your open editor position at The Turtle Foundation. I’m a skilled editor who would be a great asset to your company.”

The more you make your letter reusable, the more generic it has to become. And the more generic it is, the less useful information it gives a hiring manager. And the less useful information it gives a hiring manager, the less chance you have of getting a call.

Thanks to Jenna.kaminsky on Flickr for the Creative Commons picture.


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