Your cover letter could be so much better.

Let’s talk about your cover letter.

You ARE writing a cover letter when you apply to a job, yes? Yes. Okay, good.

But are you writing the best, most effective cover letters you possibly could? My guess is that the answer to that question is no. Now I say this having never read your cover letters, and maybe yours are amazing. I’ve read lots of cover letters, though, and most of them are lackluster. Let’s make sure the next cover letter you write is better than average.

First, cover letter basics. Like any professional correspondence you send, your cover letter should be proofread and completely error free. If grammar and spelling aren’t your strong suits, enlist the help of someone who has those things mastered.

You should customize each cover letter you send; sometimes, this means you’ll need to write an entirely new cover letter. An effective cover letter speaks to the job to which you’re applying, and it’s hard to do that with a one-size-fits all approach.

Of course, what you write should be true. No embellishing or fabricating of information allowed.

Once you’ve gotten the basics down, you can start working to write effective, compelling cover letters.

Use your own voice. Most cover letters sound canned. Get rid of “To whom it may concern” and “I believe my education and work experience make me an excellent candidate for this position.” Too many people write some version of this, and it ends up sounding like a template that you copied from the internet. Be yourself!

Avoid merely summarizing your resume. Many cover letters contain a sentence that begins “As you can see from my resume…” Yes. Whoever is reading your cover letter can, in fact, probably also see your resume. They will read your resume. They do not need you to tell them what’s on your resume. You might want to highlight some of your accomplishments and provide additional context or information about something on your resume, but it’s a wasted opportunity to reiterate what you’ve already said elsewhere.

Be willing to talk about what makes you great. Would you be good at the job? Why? That’s the question your cover letter needs to answer. Don’t be afraid to tell your future employer how and why you’d do great work for them. Trust me, they want to hear about it!

Expect to work hard at writing good cover letters. Devote some time to the task. While writing, like almost anything, does get easier with time and practice, it still requires effort. If you want to write cover letters that impress hiring managers, you have to put in the work.




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