Create an Effective Cover Letter With These Seven Tips

Nancy Anderson
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The cover letter is one of the most challenging parts of the job search for many job seekers. It is designed to introduce you as a candidate and showcase your skills, accomplishments and personality while highlighting relevant facts from your resume. Without a great cover letter, your resume stands the risk of becoming just another piece of paper. Use these seven cover letter tips to craft a document that will help you quickly stand out.

1. Keep It Simple

The cover letter is not the place to show off your fancy formatting skills, says James Stanger, senior director of product development for CompTIA. Your best bet is to keep it simple, clean and professional. Use a simple, standard font such as Arial, and avoid swirly or cursive fonts; you want the words to be easy to read through quickly.

2. Keep It Brief

Your cover letter should never extend beyond one page. Cover letters that are too long can send the wrong kind of message to employers: that you have a hard time getting to the point and don't value their time. Remember, hiring managers are busy people. If you can't sum up your accomplishments in less than four paragraphs, they may overlook your application. Stanger advises using a cover letter template to help you keep your thoughts brief.

3. Include Language From the Job Description

It's always a good idea to use the same language from the job description in your cover letter. The job description is like a clue, telling you exactly what the company needs in their own words. Using the same language not only helps pique the interest of the person reading it but also puts you at an advantage should your cover letter be scanned for keywords by applicant tracking software.

4. Do Not Copy Your Resume

Your cover letter is meant to complement your resume, not give the exact same information. The resume is more of a hard breakdown of your skills and experience, while the cover letter highlights qualifications specific to the job as well as your strengths, communication skills and personality.

5. Sell Yourself

Don't make the mistake of being too formal in your cover letter; you run the risk of coming across cold or robotic. It serves you better to showcase your personality; make it clear how passionate and enthusiastic you are about the position.

6. Focus on the Company's Needs

The company needs to know why they should hire you; your cover letter should answer this question. What unique traits and skills do you have to offer, and how would they benefit the company? Explain how you're the perfect candidate for the position and how you plan to satisfy the company's needs.

7. Make It Perfect

None of these tips mean anything if your cover letter isn't flawless. Make sure your letter is free of spelling mistakes, typos and grammatical errors. Have it professionally proofread, or have a family member or friend read it for you before you submit.

Use these cover letter tips to design a flawless, compelling and effective cover letter. A strong cover letter can mean the difference between getting a callback for an interview and your resume getting tossed into a pile with a hundred others, so take the time to make it a good one.

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