Many job seekers carefully construct their resume in hopes of impressing hiring managers. The cover letter, on the other hand, is often seen as more of an afterthought or a quick task to complete just before sending the resume, which is why some call it the job seeker's "blind spot." This document, however, is just as important — if not more so — because it's usually the first impression that an employer has of you.
If your cover letter is addressed "To whom it may concern" or "Dear hiring manager," you may as well not even send it. Failing to do the simple research to find out the exact person you're writing to displays a lack of initiative and could turn hiring managers off. All it takes is a quick Google search or phone call to the office to find out who is in charge of hiring decisions. Moreover, avoid using a generic template or standard cover letter for every job. Try to tailor each cover letter to address your relevant qualifications to each company's needs. At the very least, write a fresh introduction and conclusion for each letter.
Quantify Your Accomplishments
Hiring managers see overused jargon and cliches all the time. Instead of talking about your "interpersonal skills" or the fact that you are a "team player," go the extra mile and discuss a time when you actually displayed those skills. Wherever you can, quantify your accomplishments with statistics, specific results or other compelling details.
Don't Get Too Personal
While your cover letter should be more personal than your resume, avoid going too far. You only have a few paragraphs to convince the hiring manager to give you a second look, so don't use up too much space talking about your childhood dreams or personal interests. Instead, talk about how well you'd fit into the company's culture and how your skills could be a great fit for the position the employer is trying to fill.
Keep It Short
Don't allow your cover letter to go beyond one page. Hiring managers are busy people, and most only have a few moments to skim over your letter anyway. You should be able to explain who you are, what you can do and how you can benefit the company in four paragraphs or less. You want to avoid boring the hiring manager with needless information and filler language.
No matter how compelling your cover letter is, it could be off-putting if there are spelling or grammar errors present. Using a spell-checker isn't enough; often, you can miss certain areas where the language sounds weird or unclear. Try reading your cover letter aloud to check how the words flow. Enlist the help of a friend to read over your letter and provide feedback before you send it to prospective employers.
Don't let your cover letter become your blind spot when applying to multiple jobs. Take the time to customize each letter to the specific jobs and companies you are targeting, and be sure your letter reflects your best and most relevant qualities and skills. Once you get the hang of writing unique, compelling cover letters for each position, finding your dream job will be just a matter of time.
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