Writing a Killer Cover Letter

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Differentiate Yourself From Others

Too many job seekers focus on creating the perfect resume only to undermine their efforts with a slapdash cover letter that was put together as an afterthought. But writing a perfect cover letter takes time and effort and can make the difference between your application being passed over or moved on to the interview stage. 

A well-crafted cover letter is your chance to show a bit of personality and let the hiring manager know you’ve done your due diligence on the position and the company.  

  • Make a good impression beginning with the opening. Out-of-date greetings like “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” not only seem overly formal, they also show that you haven’t taken the initiative to unearth the name of the decision maker. It’s unlikely that the hiring manager’s name won’t be listed in the job description. So search on the company website, on LinkedIn or even Google to help find the right name. Addressing the hiring manager directly makes you stand out because it indicates that you have made the effort to track it down.
  • Make it unique to the job. Rather than sending a generic letter that could apply to any job at any company, your opening sentence should show that your letter was crafted in response to this specific job. For example, “I was thrilled to see your listing for a data entry specialist in the Cleveland office” says a lot more than “I am responding to your job opening.”   
  • Make sure to write clearly. Use active, not passive, voice and write simply and succinctly. Avoid pretentious words, phrases or jargon. Use short paragraphs and keep your letter to a single page. Make sure to proofread carefully, and then to ask someone to proofread again. Misspellings and grammar mistakes put a lot of job applicants in the no-go pile. 
  • Include relevant experience. Your cover letter gives you a chance to show how you’ll handle the tasks you’ll have on the job. “When you read the job description, make sure you respond directly with examples,” says employment and career coach Anita Blanchard. “If a company say they need someone with sales experience, mention your sales experience and then refer to it your resume for more detail.” 
  • Be careful not to just repeat what’s on your resume. Instead, aim to showcases your passion and interest in the specific job for which you’re applying. Instead of telling them why that job would be so good for you, tell them why you’ll be so good for that job and the organization. “Do not say things like ‘this would be a great opportunity to advance my career,’” says Blanchard. “They don’t care about that. They want to know that you are a good fit for their organization and this position.”  
  • Offer specific examples of what you’ve done. Read the job description carefully and look for ways your experience aligns with the job requirements. For example, if a job description for a communications assistant calls for someone who can help copy editing presentations and scripts, don’t say you’re looking for a chance to hone your copy editing and proofing skills. Instead, describe the experience you gained doing that for the college newspaper or during a summer internship. Career coach Monique Betty suggests choosing three qualifications listed in the job description and then explaining what you’ve done to meet each of those requirements. 
  • Finish strong. End your cover letter with a short paragraph reiterating your enthusiasm for the job and a sentence or two of why you think you’re the best fit. Add a quick thank you for being considered say you look forward to hearing back regarding next steps. 

– Melba Newsome