How a Great Cover Letter Can Change Your Job Search

Let’s be honest: almost no one likes writing cover letters. Most cover letters are boring and generic. But that’s good news for you: it makes it easier to write a cover letter that really stands out to a potential employer and can get you picked out of a stack of applicants. Read on and learn how to write a cover letter that transforms your job search.

Cover Letter Basics

Your cover letter is simply an introduction for your resume that will pique an employer’s interest in you. The cover letter should make an employer interested enough to go ahead and look at your resume. It shouldn’t just be a reiteration of your resume. Instead, use it to showcase your personality, accomplishments, and skills that specifically apply to the position.

Your cover letter also has another purpose: to make you seem like a real person who’d fit into the company culture. You don’t need to be overly formal; try to write a cover letter that lets some of your personality shine through. Your industry will dictate how far you can take this—in more creative fields, you can get a little more original than if your industry is very conservative.

Common Cover Letter Mistakes

Most people have a standard cover letter that they use for each position they apply to. Unfortunately, employers and recruiters can spot generic letters like these from a mile away. Instead, personalize each cover letter to the job you’re applying to (more on that later).

Secondly, most cover letters are boring. You want to get the hiring manager’s attention, not put him or her to sleep! You don’t need to tell jokes or print it on neon paper, but do make sure that it is readable and relates to real information that they care about. If the job description asks a question—like what’s your proudest career accomplishment—answer it. Show that you read the job description and put some real thought into your letter.

How to Transform Your Job Search with Your Letter

Luckily, almost every job comes with a guide to what to say in the cover letter: the job description. Read it carefully and then make your cover letter a direct response to it. Try to address the requirements they have listed in the job description with brief but specific ways that you meet that requirement.

An interesting tactic that might be right for you is to include one or two quotes from past employers or clients about your relevant skills. A quote from your former supervisor saying “Johnny is incredible at dolphin training, I’ve never seen Flipper leap so high!” might be more effective than including a line about your three years of experience in dolphin training. Again, judge whether this would be deemed appropriate in your specific field.

If there is a specific reason you want to work with this company or organization, you can include that too, especially if it is particularly compelling or original. Remember, though, your application should ultimately focus on how the employer will benefit from you, not how you will benefit from your employer.

How Long Should It Be?

Here’s the tricky part: most experts agree you should try to keep your cover letter to only three or four paragraphs. Studies have shown that employers and recruiters spend seconds, not minutes, looking over applications. Keep your cover letter succinct and to the point so that it can quickly communicate that you’re right for the job.

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