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How to Write a Cover Letter: Dos and Don’ts

Learning how to write a cover letter is essential to increase your chances of getting invited for an interview. A cover letter is a single-page letter that is also sent together with your resume. It serves as your introduction to your prospective employers with the intention of proving that you are a top candidate. 

Since we are now in the digital age and most job searchers use the Internet to send their applications, cover letters are also now in the form of emails or part of the body of an email. Thus, you need to make a strong, memorable first impression the second the interviewer opens your email, avoiding the common mistakes in writing your cover letter.

What to Avoid in Writing a Cover Letter

1. Not following instructions

It is crucial that you always follow the specific instructions the employer provides when it comes to submitting your application for employment. The evaluation process starts with how you respond to their instructions. You should read the instructions, be thoughtful and follow directions before you do anything. 

Skipping the instructions and coming up with your own direction and action can literally cost you a job. 

2. Using a generic cover letter

Every time you are sending an application, you must tailor or customize it. This is so that your cover letter will be original and relevant to the job posting. The information should be specific to the job requirement. 

So how do you do this? You should address your cover letter to the hiring manager or the contact person stated in the job posting, if their names are available. Also, make sure that you will state the title of the role you are applying for and the skills and experiences that make you qualified for the position. It will also help if you align what you can offer by showing your familiarity with what the company does, their mission, and values.

3. Not highlighting your strengths and achievements

You need to be confident in marketing yourself by focusing on your notable contributions and major attributes. But make sure that your strengths and achievements mirror the assets the company is looking for an employee. This will determine that you are the strongest candidate for the position. You can mention the most impressive accomplishments and achievements you have earned that are relevant to the position you are applying for. 

4. Not optimizing your cover letter with keywords

Interviewers and hiring managers usually receive hundreds of resumes every time they open a job position. That is why they use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to filter applicants by using keyword search. The ATS browses the application document, resume, and cover letter of each applicant. If they see related keywords or phrases to the position, the application will most likely get chosen. 

To determine what keywords you will include in your cover letter, go back to the job postings or requirements. If the employer is looking for a candidate with strong communication skills, then include that skill in your cover letter. 

5. Don’t overuse “I” and “my”

Minimizing your use of the words “I” and “my” will help avoid the perception of being self-centered or arrogant. Of course, you are still going to need to use “I” or “my” to describe your skills and emphasize your interest in the position—you just need to exhibit control not to overuse those words. 

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What to Include in Writing a Cover Letter

1. Proofread your cover letter before sending

The smallest spelling, grammar mistakes, and any kind of typo in your cover letter might prevent you from getting an interview. Besides, excellent written and verbal communication skills are one of the top job requirements for any position. Therefore, you must proofread all your application materials before submitting them to your potential employer.

2. Explain what you can contribute to their company

List the relevant skills and experiences and apply those to the job position you are applying for. Elaborate how you can use those to achieve positive results with their company. You will be able to convince and show the interviewer that you are a perfect fit for the position and their company. This is because you are demonstrating that you have the required skills or experience and that you have the ability to succeed in that position. 

3. Keep your cover letter short and sweet

You only get 30 seconds to impress the hiring manager with your cover letter. So you need to keep your cover letter short and easy for the eyes. This includes using white space, sections, bullets, and simple fonts/formatting. 

Your cover letter should be half-page long, ideally composed of three to four paragraphs. Keep the sentences short so that the reader can quickly navigate your cover letter. Grab the hiring manager’s attention in your first paragraph by indicating the reason why you are writing. Then use the remaining paragraphs to explain your qualifications and to highlight your achievements. And use the last paragraph as your closing paragraph.

4. Sell yourself by displaying a confident and enthusiastic personality

Your cover letter gives you a chance to show the hiring manager some insights into your character and to display your interest in the job position. Showing your personality will help your application rise to the top. But the key is that you should still maintain professionalism while showing your personality. Use a confident and enthusiastic tone and make sure that it should still sound like you. 

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5. Use action verbs to describe your experiences and abilities

Power verbs, buzzwords, or action verbs will bring your cover letter to life. Using the right action verbs shows what you have accomplished and your ability to succeed. Action verbs highlight your skills and accomplishments. These are (colorful) descriptors that bring a confident tone to your resume and capture the attention of an employer. Action verbs make a sentence stronger and impactful. Here are some of the action verbs you can use to get your cover letter, and even your resume noticed, in alphabetical order. 

A

Achieved, accomplished, acted, adapted, analyzed, authorized, assessed, assisted, appraised, advised, allocated, acquired, aided, assembled

B

Budgeted, built, boosted

C

Compiled, challenged, chaired, committed, communicated, coordinated, contributed, commissioned, customized, created

D

Developed, documented, determined, demonstrated, directed, devoted, drafted, doubled, dedicated

E

Earned, elected, engaged, engineered, employed, expedited, experienced, enforced

F

Facilitated, focused, financed, fueled, figured, fit, formed, fortified, functioned, formulated

G

Gave, garnered, granted, generated, guaranteed

H

Handled, helped, headed

I

Improved, identified, inspired, invested, illustrated, implemented, innovated, invented, instilled

J

Judged, joined, justified

L

Launched, litigated, led, listened

M

Mastered, managed, moderated, motivated, multiplied, marketed, maximized

N

Negotiated, noticed, navigated, networked

O

Operated, owned, oversaw, organized, obtained

P

Participated, proposed, pursued, persuaded, processed, produced, promoted, planned, performed, pioneered, proficiency, provided, profiled

Q

Qualified

R

Resolved, rewarded, restored, reinforced, reinstated, recovered, reduced,ran, raised, reached

S

Secured, stabilized, settled, selected, shaped, simplified, specialized, standardized, strategized, surveyed, supported, supervised

T

Trained, transformed, tested, transferred, tailored, targeted 

U

Utilized, updated, undertook, unified, upgraded

V

Valued, validated, visualized

W

Worked, weighed, won

How To Write The Perfect Cover Letter online course is for you if you are interested in learning the basics and guidelines of writing a cover letter and improving your chances of getting a job.

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