In a sea of fresh and equally eager candidates, the sad truth is that most résumés look the same. That said, having a cover letter can give you a competitive edge, especially if you don't have any professional experience under your belt. Here's how to make a cover letter the ultimate secret weapon!
1. Address a specific person.
Erase "To whom it may concern" from your memory! 1) It's too formal and cover letters are more conversational. 2) Impress the hiring manager by going the extra mile. If the job posting doesn't have a name, look up the company's hiring manager. If that doesn't work, look for the head of the department you're applying for.
2. Do not regurgitate your résumé.
Your résumé is supposed to give people a GLIMPSE of what you have to offer and the cover letter is where you provide the specifics. If it's looking like you just wrote your résumé in paragraph form, it's time to restrategize. The cover letter is your time to shine; don't waste it!
3. Avoid cookie cutter intros.
This is what a cookie cutter intro looks like: "I am writing to express interest in the Editorial Assistant position for Cosmo.ph posted on Jobstreet last July 24,2016." It's typical, weak, and boring. Use a conversational tone aka talk like a real person.
4. Add a little oomph!
An excellent cover letter introduces who you really are, what you have to offer, and why you want the job—without losing your voice. For example, if you're applying for a supportive role in the company, you can write about how you love making lists and itineraries for fun (read: you're a good planner) or how you enjoy wearing many hats (read: you're able to multitask). It doesn't always have to be about numbers. There's always a creative way to say, "Listen, I can handle this job and here's what I can deliver in this role."
5. Don't apologize for skills you don't have.
Believe it or not, you can be the perfect candidate for the job without knowing everything. Most hiring managers pick candidates who fit the company's culture and who have a lot of potential. Don't write sentences that begin with, "Despite my limited experience with writing," or "Even though I've never worked in..." Focus on your strengths instead. Talk about what you have to offer.
6. One word: Stories.
Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts.
7. Avoid cover letter clichés.
Like, "team player," "people person," "fast learner," "uniquely qualified for this job..." There are 1,025,110 words in the English language. Just sayin'.
8. Keep it short and sweet.
500 words. That's all you need! It's just like a written version of your elevator pitch. The hiring manager doesn't have all the time in the world. Be concise.
9. Customize your cover letters!
Yes, it's tempting to just write a general cover letter that you can print and staple to your résumé before you send out several job applications, but guess what? Companies see right through that. It takes more effort to do the research for each company you're applying to, but if this is something you can't be bothered to do, then why should they bother with considering you?
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