LiveCareer Blog

Call to Action: Do You Have a Modern Cover Letter?

Want a modern cover letter? Things have changed over the past few years.  Make sure you don’t miss any of these four valuable points.  

You need a modern cover letter. While grandparents represent a vital source of wisdom on many topics, be selective about the advice you decide to take. After all, you’re trying to land a job in 2016. Things have changed. Make sure your cover letter doesn’t look like a throwback to 2015 (gasp!), or worse, the Kennedy administration. As you read this, pull out a copy of your cover letter. See what changes you need to make before you submit it. 

The 80s called. It wants its cover letter back.

Your parents, grandparents, and their peers probably stood where you’re standing, career-wise, in the 80s and 90s. And when they set off in search of entry level career advice, they probably heard tips such as these:

Choose heavy, high quality paper for your resume. Type your cover letter, don’t write it out with a ballpoint pen. Be respectful. Don’t dot your I’s with hearts. Don’t include your age, weight, or social security number on your resume, and don’t staple on a photo of yourself.

Let’s take an updated look at each of these points.

Yes, paper applications are still a thing. And yes, you will need to invest in high quality, linen-infused paper at some point during your job search. You’ll need to take printed resumes with you to your interviews, and you might hand them over at networking events. In the meantime, leverage the modern equivalent of the paper cover letter: your online footprint. Make versions of both available 24/7 on your blog, your website, and your LinkedIn profile.  

Create a sharp, beautifully formatted resume and cover letter using tools available in the latest version of Word. This is the version of your resume that will get the most traffic and attention, since you’ll be attaching it to your cover letter and submitting it by email for most employers. You can also use apps that allow you to submit and share your resume in real time with largest possible number of people. Before you send your oh-so modern cover letter, change the format to PDF so that your hard work cannot be changed by anyone.

Modern employers may not be as actively biased as they used to be, but you’ll still need to keep certain information away from your job application. This doesn’t just protect you from discrimination — it also protects employers from accusations of same. Nobody likes to court lawsuits or reputation damaging allegations of bias, so if your letter says too much about your personal life (including your marital and family status) it may end up in the trash. Identity theft is a threat whenever you send information online, so remove your social security number. On public sites, protect your birthdate and your home address.

In the past, a respectful cover letter might start with a phrase like “Dear Sir.” This phrase can generate the exact opposite effect in a modern workplace. Toss out such greetings. And while you’re at it, toss out phrases that aren’t in circulation anymore, like “To whom it may concern.” If you don’t know the honorific or prefix your reader prefers (Ms., Mr., Mrs., Mx., Dr., Councilman, Chairwoman, Professor, etc.) just use the person’s first and last name. You can also use the name of the company. For example, “Dear QualCo” will suffice.

Keep in mind that elevated writing, accurate grammar, strong proofreading, and a respectful tone will never go out of style. Turn to LiveCareer to stay on top of shifting job search trends.