Using a template to write your cover letter can make it a lot easier. If you use a template to get started, make sure you customize it. Even the best designed template will not match your situation exactly. There will be changes you need to make.
Failing to customize a template to your situation can make a very bad impression. This is especially true with the resume I received recently. The cover letter started with the candidate’s name and contact information. I have copied below the cover letter, without any changes, from that point to the greeting.
Actual start of a job seeker’s cover letter:
(6 blank lines)
(4 blank lines)
City, ST ZIP
RE: Position Title
Dear —. Whomever:
This cover letter is a disaster, and it’s tough to imagine the job seeker making a worse impression. The job seeker left the two instructional lines, calling for leaving 6 and 4 lines of space. The candidate failed to replace any of customizing tags, such as the date and position title with the actual date and position title.
This isn’t rocket science. If you use a template and it has a placeholder like “Dear — Whomever:,” you need to change this. The cover letter shows so little effort and attention to detail, I have trouble seeing why I would want to read the candidate’s resume, and I can’t imagine ever wanting to interview the candidate.
What is really sad is the number of resumes I receive with cover letters like this. Don’t make this mistake. Spend the extra twenty of thirty seconds to type in the date, position title and some greeting other than “if you do not have a name, eliminate this line completely.”