If writing cover letters fills you with dread, you’re not alone. Job seekers are constantly bombarded with advice on how to stand out while finding the balance between generic clichés and unfocused rambling. Instead of letting cover letter jitters sabotage your job search, follow these tips to create a memorable cover letter.
Your cover letter is the gateway to an interview, and if you don’t land that coveted face-to-face meeting, you’ve already lost to the competition. The stakes are even higher if you’re unemployed and in desperate need of a stable income, making you resent the job search for reducing your worth to the contents of a one-page letter.
Combat your anxiety by approaching your cover letter with the same conversational tone as an email. Be professional, but focus on laying out the essential details, and go back with an editing eye once you have a solid foundation to work from.
Boring, Formulaic Writing
Cranking out cover letters with repetitive, robotic phrases quickly drains your motivation to continue a job search. Unfortunately, your lack of enthusiasm shows in your work, making you even less likely to get a callback.
Hiring managers harbor a hatred for dull, unengaging cover letters, so avoid wasting their time by being concise and creative. Ditch valueless openings that simply state the obvious. Instead, hook your audience with a personalized first sentence, such as a quick statement about the company’s impact on your career goals or recent company accomplishments that drew your attention.
Lack of Confidence
Uncertainty about your professional achievements chips away at your nerves, and you may convince yourself that you don’t have any compelling details to include in a cover letter. On the other hand, highlighting every time you took initiative in the office or volunteered on the weekends makes you feel like a shameless boaster. Writing about yourself is difficult, and you’re not always aware of the personal qualities your previous employers considered most valuable. Separate your insecurities from your job search, and ask a trusted mentor or colleague to describe your strengths from her perspective.
Poor Writing Skills
If a history of struggling with grammar and composition makes you second-guess every word, dragging out a process that should be straightforward, don't be afraid to ask for help. Eliminate any concerns about typos or poor language by allowing a friend with strong grammar skills to proofread your cover letter before you send it.
Avoid a marathon session of writing cover letters, which inevitably leads to burnout. Prioritize the positions in your job search, and write the letters in batches throughout the day or week. Pacing yourself gives you the focus to approach each letter with fresh eyes.
Customized cover letters are important, so don't let the time required to tackle a hefty batch of applications cause you to skimp on substance. Use templates to save time on formatting, but don’t rely on them to carry you through the job search. Hiring managers read thousands of applications and recognize every overused phrase you can imagine. The worst job-hunting mistake is sacrificing your opportunity to appraise your skills in your own words.
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