Ten Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts

August 22nd, 2012 3 Min read Ten Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts Blog
Download PDF First impressions count in the job search, and that’s why a dynamite cover letter can mean the difference between success and failure. But what makes a dazzling cover letter? Several healthcare career experts shared their advice with HMonster.


1. Get to the Point State the purpose of your letter in the first paragraph. Small talk is generally a waste of space. “Most of the cover letters we do for clients are three paragraphs or so and fill less than a page,” says Shel Horowitz, director of Accurate Writing & More in Hadley, MA. 2. Tailor Your Letter to the Reader Focus on the needs of the specific healthcare organization, not on your own requirements as a job seeker. Visit your potential employer’s website or read the company’s annual report to learn more about it, and then use your cover letter to demonstrate how your skills and experience can benefit the organization. 3. Maintain A Friendly Yet Businesslike Tone A cover letter should be “businesslike, friendly, and enthusiastic,” says Bill Frank, founder of CareerLab in Denver and author of Two Hundred Letters for Job Hunters. Health professionals have the “opportunity to reveal their passion” through a cover letter, but the document “shouldn’t become too syrupy, or it loses its objectivity and professionalism,” says Dr. Lorne Weeks, a healthcare consultant for The Physician Career Network, a division of CareerLab. 4. Make It Memorable New graduates can make their cover letters stand out by personalizing their stories. If you decided to model your career after a physical therapist who helped a family member, for example, tell that story rather than making the blander claim that you’ve always wanted to help people. “If your story is unique, it’s no longer a cliché,” says Frank. 5. Stay On Track The best cover letters are direct and concise, says Kathy Campbell, employment and employee relations manager at Holy Spirit Health System in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. “Don’t include a lot of unnecessary personal information,” she says. 6. Highlight Your Biggest Successes “Your cover letter shouldn’t just summarize your career or repeat the same information from your resume,” says Wendy Enelow, president of Career Masters Institute in Lynchburg, Virginia. “You want it to highlight the successes and achievements of your career that are most related to the types of positions for which you are applying.” According to Frank, you should mention career-related “triples and home runs” in your cover letter. 7. Use Power Phrases Use strong action words to convey your experiences and illustrate your qualifications with phrases like ‘I have a strong background in’ and ‘I have a talent for,’ Don’t be shy about selling yourself.” Enelow says, “since that’s the purpose of a cover letter.” 8. Show Your Team Spirit If you have room for a few extra sentences in your cover letter, emphasize your teamwork and communication skills. In this day and age, teamwork and communication are vitally important in almost every healthcare position, from the lowest to the highest paid. 9. Spice Up Your Writing Effective cover letters are a little different from all the others but still straightforward, experts say. For example, the boring, traditional way to begin a cover letter is: “I am writing in response to your advertisement on HMonster for a nurse and have enclosed my resume for your review.” The better opener could be: “Your ad on HMonster for a nurse captured my attention and motivated me to learn more about this opportunity.” Then describe how your qualifications match the employer’s needs. 10. Follow Up An unforgivable error made by some job seekers is failing to follow up after promising to do so in a cover letter. If you write in your cover letter that you’ll call the letter recipient on a certain day or by a specific deadline, do it!


1. Provide salary information when it is not requested. 2. Address a letter recipient by anything other than his or her name (and avoid “Dear Sirs” at all costs). 3. Write a generic letter that looks like it was copied from a book. 4. Start the first paragraph and too many other sentences with “I.” 5. Make spelling errors and typos. 6. Hand write a cover letter. 7. Use shoddy paper, or paper that’s different from your resume paper. 8. Cram too much information into a small space. 9. Include irrelevant personal information or job experience. 10. Overstate your accomplishments or contradict your resume.