1. Keep it short.Cover letters used to be used a formal introduction to the resume. It was believed the resume was going to do the heavy-lifting in terms of impressing the hiring manager. So, experts advised to keep the cover letter short and let the hiring manager get to the 'good stuff.'
Well, fast forward to today where most hiring managers don't believe what's on a resume anymore. Instead, they want to get a sense of the applicant's personality, and the cover letter is the best way to convey that. Longer cover letters, complete with sub-titles for paragraphs, are working in today's competitive job search. As long as you can get the reader at "hello" and hold his or her attention with a compelling story, a longer cover letter can serve to impress the hiring manager with your communication skills. This leads to myth #2...
2. Use formal language.While it might seem to make sense to use a lot of formal text and fancy words in your cover letter, studies actually show that it makes you look less intelligent. Moreover, you would never speak that way to the hiring manager if he or she were in front of you. Why say, "I'm pleased to be applying for the esteemed role of Manager of..."? It just sounds stuffy. Instead, cover letters should share your story in uncomplicated language that is easy to read and believe.
3. Explain what experience you have that proves you can do the job.The idea behind this myth is that you need to summarize what skills on your resume the recruiter should look at. In reality, that's just a waste of breath. The employer is smart enough to look at your resume and figure out what is relevant. Your cover letter should just focus on proving to the hiring manager that you understand why the job is important to the company's business.
Look at the hiring manager as the leader of a tribe that you want to join. The cover letter should present to the hiring manager your understanding of what the company does, what it does is important, and how you are in alignment with their mission. When you show the hiring manager that you "get" what the company does, you're also proving you could be a valuable contributor to the team.
Cover letters are a necessary evil. But, more importantly, their purpose and value in the job search has shifted. Avoid believing the myths and you'll start to develop a cover letter that will get the attention you want – and deserve.