How to Improve Your Cover Letter's Scannability
Make Your Tech Cover Letter More Readable With Bullet Points
If you're like most people, you've written many of your cover letters in traditional paragraph style. The first paragraph is an introductory one, stating your interest in the job opening and where you learned about it, while the middle paragraph(s) will mention your selling points - the skills you can offer. In the final paragraph, you typically request an interview, state your resume follow-up intentions, and thank the employer for taking the time to consider you.
The thing is, these blocks of text can be less than reader-friendly - especially if the paragraphs are long and wordy. Tech hiring managers are an especially busy bunch, and they receive a lot of responses to job ads. They don't want to comb through long paragraphs to find the information they need, so if your cover letter looks like a daunting read, it might automatically end up in the reject pile.
Here are some suggestions to make your cover letter more readable and make the most important information about you stand out:
Use Bullet Points in Your Cover Letter
Bullet points are a great way to offer some visual appeal to your cover letter by breaking up the text and creating additional white space.
They can also make it easier for the employer to scan through your selling points and absorb the most important information about you. On the other hand, it can help you with writing the cover letter, as the bullet points may not require as much writing as a traditional cover letter does.
Tips for Effective Use of Bullet Points in Cover Letters
- Use bullet points in your second paragraph, where you list what you can bring to the table for the employer.
- Use full sentences in your bullet points. As an option, you can start each point with a key phrase that states one of the job's requirements - pulled straight from the job ad - and then lead into a brief explanation about how your experience meets that requirement.
- Do not use bullet points to repeat what you've included in your cover letter bullet points are more about stating achievements and how you meet the employer's needs, rather than what your responsibilities were in previous positions.
- Keep your bullet points concise. The whole point of writing a cover letter in this style is to reduce the amount of text that a hiring manager sees - short and to the point. If you keep a large mass of text and put a bullet point next to it, you’re missing the point.
In general, your bullet points should mirror the language used in the job ad. It will help demonstrate exactly how you meet the requirements and what you can offer the employer.
Keep Cover Letter Paragraphs Short
As for the other paragraphs in your cover letter, make sure they are brief. You want the letter to look as easy to read as possible, so each paragraph should be a maximum of two or three sentences long.
Also, your entire cover letter should not be more than three to five paragraphs long - on the shorter side if you include the cover letter in the body of an email.
Read Your Cover Letter Aloud
Don’t worry - you don’t have to read it to another person (unless you want to). Read it aloud to yourself. It will help in editing your own writing because many things sound great in your mind, but are strange or disorganized when read aloud. Reading your writing aloud helps take your own mind out of the equation and makes your speaking voice a fresh reader.