Top 8 Cover Letter Tips from Employers

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When trying to land a job in television, your cover letter could be your saving grace. Sure, you have the experience and the know-how, but without a well crafted cover letter the employer might not take a second look at your credentials. Before you hit send, run down this checklist of tips to make sure your cover letter will actually get read and that you stand out to the person hiring.


1) Use spell check, twice!

Production Manager - Problem Solver

One of the first things people notice are typos on your cover letter and particularly on your resume. Said one HR person, a whopping 50% of the resumes he sees have typos and as many as 70% have typos on cover letters. One person said they had a degree in "Jouralsnism". Another had "refernces". Other common errors are putting a space before a period, or no space after a period. These little things are always noticed and can kill your chances for a job in seconds.

2) Eliminate sloppy grammar

Production Manager - Problem Solver

It is probably best to show your cover letter to a friend to look for any mistakes. The same HR person said he can find grammatical errors in almost every single letter he gets. A clean, well-written cover letter speaks volumes about your ability to present information. In the TV business it is all about presenting information, so if you cannot get your own cover letter right, how will you get the show through rights and clearances? Will you have the same attention to detail in the final cut?

3) Describe in your letter how you will help the company, not how you want to help your own career

Production Manager - Problem Solver

While it makes sense to tell a college about your own hopes and dreams, people who are hiring are looking for someone who is focused on helping the company. Describe what you will do, what you have to offer and how hard you will work. Don't talk about your desire to achieve this or that or what a great filmmaker you want to become. Save that for family dinners and dates.

4) Write for the job you are applying to, not the one you want

Production Manager - Problem Solver

Tell the person interviewing you that you want the very job you are applying for, not the job one level up. For example if you are applying to be an assistant, talk about how good you will be at assisting, not how you want to direct or how your college film won an award. One HR person told us an applicant for an Associate Producer/Booker job listed his collection of Canon lenses in his cover letter. He also mentioned someone applying to be an assistant editor talk about how many films he'd cut when the job needed someone good at digitizing and media management who would work overnights. All the hiring manager wanted to hear was that this applicant was good at the job itself and liked coffee. Otherwise this tells a company you actually want a different job than the one they need filled.

5) Don't use shorthand, use full sentences

Production Manager - Problem Solver

Do not use "&" when you can say "and" and never say "u" or "r" or absolutely never say "lol". Spell out words instead of abbreviating. Never say prod-co in a cover letter, say production company. Don't say "admin" if you mean you are working as an administrative assistant. This kind of writing makes it look like you are in a hurry which is not the message you want to send when you are trying to get a job.


6) Keep it short

Production Manager - Problem Solver

When a job poster is looking at your cover letter they are interested in your relevant job experience, what you can bring to the gig, and maybe some references. The production world is busy and not everyone has time to read over 100 cover letters that are over three paragraphs long. One quick glance will tell the line producer if they have time to even read your cover letter, so make it short and sweet. You should be able to say everything that you need to say in 2 paragraphs. This isn't the time or place to tell your life story.


7) Don't be generic and loosen up!

Production Manager - Problem Solver

You are applying for a job in production; this is supposed to be fun! The person reading your cover letter doesn't want something that reads like the technical manual for your new air conditioner. Give it some oomph if you want to be considered and make sure your personality shines. An industry that is based on networking wants to find the personality that will work well with their team and they won't be able to realize how great you are if you don't use your own voice in your cover letter and show them that personality upfront.

8) Use language from the Job Post (so they know you've read it)

Production Manager - Problem Solver

If the job description requests that you have a car - TELL THEM you have a car. If the job description reads that the gig is for a local - tell them that you can work as a local. If the post says that they are looking for an "organized self-starter" - in your cover letter, explain to them that you are the "organized self-starter" that they are looking for. The biggest complaint that we hear is that after reading applicant's cover letters, the majority don't seem to have even read the description of the job they are actually applying for.

What other cover letter tips can you think of for the industry?  Or better yet, what weird things have you seen in a cover letter that totally cost that person the job?  Comment below! 


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