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How to Write a Killer Cover Letter

You’ve found the perfect job, your resume is ready to go, but there’s one last thing on your to-do list: the dreaded cover letter.

While it might seem easy to write a one-page letter touting your strengths, many job seekers struggle to understand what, exactly, an employer is looking for and how to translate that into a couple of paragraphs.

Cover letters are unavoidable, and many employers consider them the most important part of any job application. As much as you’d prefer to let your resume speak for itself, your cover letter is truly your chance to make the best first impression. This is your opportunity to showcase your talents, stand out from competing candidates, and help hiring managers get to know you outside of your resume.

It’s time to give that cover letter the TLC it deserves. Below are a few simple tips to help you write a cover letter that lands your dream job:

1. Always Submit a Cover Letter

This bit of advice might seem pretty obvious to you, but many people think cover letters are optional. Even if the job description doesn’t specifically ask for one, you should still include one.

Applicants who don’t take the time to write a cover letter are typically seen as less motivated, and most hiring managers won’t even look at an application that lacks one. Cover letters are a must! We all know the time and stress that goes into writing one, but by going the extra mile, you prove your interest in the job while showing you’re willing to put in the effort.

2. Don’t Regurgitate Your Resume

Yes, it’s okay to talk about the things listed on your resume, but don’t copy and paste them right from the document. Instead, elaborate on your previous experiences and highlight things that relate to the position you’re applying for. A cover letter lets you put your skills into full sentences rather than just bullet points. Use this time to share additional details you weren’t able to squeeze onto your single-page resume and tell a story about why you’re the perfect fit for the job.

3. Don’t Apologize for Skills You Don’t Have

This is one of the most common cover letter mistakes. For some reason, we all feel the need to apologize for our perceived shortfalls — but why? If you don’t meet all of the job requirements, don’t draw attention to that fact. Instead, stay positive and focus on the skills you do have. It’s better to highlight your strengths than to apologize for your weaknesses.

4. Don’t Be Too Formal — Show Some Personality

Remember the person receiving your cover letter is just that: a person. Spare the overly formal constructions and put some personality into it. Reading through cover letters can be exhausting, and employers often only skim them. Dare to get noticed. Make your cover letter stand out. Give employers a reason to stop and read your full letter. It just might be the thing that lands you an interview.

5. Pay Attention to the Details

The smallest grammar mistake will most likely land your application in the “no” stack. It doesn’t matter what job you’re applying for; hiring managers are always looking for smart, detail-oriented individuals. If you misspell a word or forget a comma, don’t think it will go unnoticed. Be sure to proofread thoroughly your cover letter before submitting it. Consider having a colleague or friend review it as well for added security.

6. Be Yourself

Last and most importantly, be yourself. There is nothing worse than someone trying to be something they’re not. If you land the interview after blatantly lying in your cover letter, the employer is going to find out, and you won’t get the job. Be confident in yourself and highlight your true strengths. An honest cover letter will go a long way.

While it can be stressful to write, a cover letter can make or break your chance of landing an interview. Be patient and give your letter the attention it needs. You’ll be happy you did.

Ahnaf Bashir is the vice president of human resources at Advance Financial.