Sorry I’m late! I agree with Meg, KimBoo York , Andrei Dragonescu, and Tre L. Loadholt in their responses (and did some highlighting). I come from reviewing (and submitting) covers and résumés on the tech side, so hold on to your salt shaker with my suggestions.
- Your reader has a problem they are trying to solve. In a small shop, there will be one reader doing the first filter and then the review to decide who gets an interview; in a larger shop, this will be two people. You need to get past the first pass, which in most cases is just someone wading through a pile of papers looking for reasons to throw yours in the trash. So keep it simple and don’t make mistakes. Then you need to catch the attention of the person scheduling the interview, so make it interesting and personable. (Yes, covers are fun.)
- Show you are very interested in working for THIS company. Include details that show you read the ad (seriously, we get stuff that makes me question how a particular application ended up in my building, never mind my desk). Include details not in the ad that show you researched the company.
- I usually include a two-column table with “Your ad says you need this…” and “Here’s what I provide…” details. Yes, it’s geeky, but I’m a geek who works with and for geeks, so usually it works in my favor. And it makes life easier for some HR clerk who is just ticking off checkboxes deciding which applications to pass along (which solves their problem).
- Read your cover when you have it finished. Read it again. Have someone else read it and pick it apart as brutally as possible. NO MISTAKES. If you don’t pay attention to detail on something really important to you, why will you take a strain on something your new employer cares about?