Writing better cover letters will improve your first impression and job prospects

11.20.2013


Next to your resume, your cover letter will likely be the most important part of your initial application, as it gives you a chance to explain why you're the best choice for a specific position. It can seem harrowing at first, but with practice and consideration, writing a quality cover letter to find a job can become second nature.

Competition for many positions will be fierce, no matter what you're in the running for. Keeping your cover letter short and respectful is one of the best ways to get yourself through the door when you're first applying for jobs, according to the News-Herald. Hiring managers have to sift through dozens, sometimes hundreds of cover letters for each position they're hiring for. Giving them a short, sweet and to-the-point page that can explain who you are and why you matter in 30 seconds will be a major advantage over wordy, flowery and rambling letters. Whatever experience you have, distill it into a short summary of your abilities and nothing more.

There's no better way for a candidate to promote themselves than direct communication through the cover letter. In many situations, candidates may mention their skills in comparison to other jobs or workers and not on their own merits. This is a mistake you need to avoid. Being confident in your abilities and yourself is one of the most important qualities you can hold, as it shows your potential employer you mean business.

However, you should also prevent your writing from becoming too formal. Slang isn't quite appropriate, but you need to avoid writing the equivalent of a business conversation in the letter. Conversational style, instead, will help your voice shine through and prevent your writing from overpowering your personality. This will allow the reader to make a deeper connection with your potential, boosting your hiring prospects.

Show your interest
You need to show your potential employer that you're serious about the job. Whether you can mention specific details about their writing staff, their sales figures or your favorite piece of information you learned from their website, specifics will help you benefit much more than generalities might.

For less experienced job seekers, who may have less time in positions than others, early work experience is only relevant if you can make it relevant. Employers won't necessarily care about early-life experiences as much as they will experience that matters in the context of the position at hand. College experience is fine, but high school and extracurricular activities that took place before then may not be as relevant in certain situations. It's better to keep things short, and through trial and error, you'll learn exactly what you need to include compared to what can be left out.

One surprisingly overlooked aspect of the cover letter is that many applicants don't follow instructions. Many times, instructions are added to an application specifically to track applicants' abilities to follow such directions. Whether the rule in question is a time deadline, a writing sample or a word limit, make sure you get it down to the last detail.

Keep things focused on the company
While you do sell yourself in a cover letter, you need to convince the hiring manager that you're the right person for the job. At the same time, you need to express what you can do for them, not what they'll do for you, according to US News and World Report. As a result, keep your cover letter and application focused on why you're the right hire, not what you'll gain from the experience. Career goals can be what push you over the edge - in an interview, not in your first contact with your potential boss.

Finally, and most importantly, don't allow yourself to make any mistakes. You should read, edit, re-read and edit your cover letters again before they go out - and if you're uncertain about the process, ask a friend or family member for a proof-read. The slightest hiccup can make or break an application, but with preparation that hiccup will be removed well before it has a chance to harm.

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