Here are some tips to keep in mind...
- Length - Too short and I don't think you have the qualifications/experience we are looking for; too long and I question your ability to communicate concisely and effectively.
- Typos - If you can't submit an application, cover letter, resume, etc., free of typing, grammar, and/or spelling errors, I wonder if you lack attention to detail or if you simply don't care about the position you are applying for.
- Relevance - Unless you manage to convince me that you are qualified for the position, your application will be overlooked. Don't tell me about everything you have ever done; rather, tell me about the things you have done that will help you perform well in the position I have available. Some of this information may be directly correlated to the position (accounting intern applying for an accounting job) and some will be transferable skills (restaurant server with multitasking ability applying for a nursing position).
- Professionalism - A job application is no place for a conversational tone. Being professional does not mean you have to be stuffy and cold; it just entails proper formatting (even if you know the person you are sending a cover letter to, you will address the person as Mr./Ms. ____), being courteous, and staying on point.
- Contact - Knowing someone who is employed at the place you have applied continues to be a huge help in getting your foot in the door. If you do have a contact, make sure you are in touch with the person prior to applying for a job to ask some questions (knowing more about the company helps you write a better cover letter) and for any application advice. After you have submitted your application, follow-up to let the person know and consider attaching your application materials as a courtesy.
- But not too much contact - Have you ever been repeatedly contacted by a company trying to get your business? How did that make you feel? Don't make the recruiter feel that way.