Of everything that goes into applying for a job, writing the perfect cover letter may be one of the most difficult to master. It’s also important, since it’s the first thing your potential employer sees.
How long should it be? What should you write about? Do people even really read those things? Well, the truth is if you don’t catch their attention almost immediately, they might not.
That’s why your cover letter has to be outstanding. No need to worry, though. In this article, we’ll give you six tips that will help you write the perfect cover letter.
1. Make It Look Nice
Although it might seem like a minor detail, the way your letter is formatted says a lot about you. Even if everything is a recipe for a perfect cover letter, if your layout looks unprofessional, so will you.
Use an easy-to-read font, and make sure you include your name and contact information at the top. After that, the format depends on the kind of job you’re applying for.
For a more traditional company, a standard three-paragraph letter will do. If you want to work somewhere that does things a little bit differently, you might want to use a list so it’s easy to scan.
2. Address the Right Person
Choosing how to address your letter can be tricky, especially if you’re not quite sure who will be reading it. If you’ve already been communicating with someone or know who makes the hiring decisions, this step is easier.
If, however, you’re not quite sure who’s going to end up with your letter, you might be tempted to use “To Whom It May Concern” or another generic opening. This won’t help you stand out, though, so just skip it altogether. That’s right, go straight into what you want to see.
That way, the first thing they see is your spectacular opening sentence, not a boring introduction.
3. Avoid Being Generic
This is the reason you want to avoid a generic greeting, but it applies to the rest of your cover letter as well. Your resume lists your experiences, education and skills. Your cover letter is your chance to introduce yourself and make yourself stand out from the crowd.
So, don’t be generic. Avoid using lines they’ve probably heard before. Be specific about the skills you provide. Using a few numbers can really help illustrate a point. For example, “I increased sales by 30 percent” is better than “I increased sales.”
Most importantly, don’t just repeat what you said on your resume.
4. Grab Their Attention
When you meet someone for the first time, it only takes them seven seconds to form an opinion about you. Job applications operate by a similar rule. If you don’t pique their attention right away, you probably won’t get a second chance.
That’s why your first sentence needs to be outstanding. Don’t say my name is blank, and I’m applying for blank. They already know that. Tell them something unique about yourself, show them why you really want this job or explain your proudest accomplishment.
5. Keep It Short
When it comes to cover letters, less really is more. Make it quick and easy to read, since they’ll probably only glance at it until you grab their attention with something interesting.
Avoid adding extra fluff to make your letter sound fancy or professional. Simply make your points and then end strong. Your cover letter should never go over one page long. If you’re writing your letter in the body of an email, you should lean even harder toward the short side. You can say a bit more in an attached document or physical letter.
6. Quadruple-Check Your Work
An easy way to kill your chances of getting an interview is to leave typos in your cover letter. That’s why checking your work and editing are important.
Use online and word processor spelling tools, and look up anything you’re unsure about. It’s also a good idea to have someone read over your letter and look for any mistakes before you send it in. You might also want to wait a day after writing, and then go back to check for mistakes and edit.
A cover letter is your chance to make a positive first impression on a potential new employer, so it’s important to spend some time making sure yours is as good as it can get. Use these six tips to help you along the way.
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