Kick Unemployment to the Curb with a Killer Cover Letter

5 Tips for Writing a Great Cover Letter

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I hate to say it, but if you are trying to get a job right now, you are up against stiff competition. Although the economy has shown signs of improvement, unemployment is stable at best and in many states increasing. It is definitely an employer’s market out there right now. Employers have plenty of choices now — many of whom are over-qualified but willing to work for lower wages than usual.

So if you are looking for a job right now, you must find ways to make yourself stand out. Your cover letter is your first chance to make an impression on your potential future employer, and you know what they say about first impressions. Make sure your cover letter is quick but killer by using these five tips.

1. Give examples to back up your claims

You can list off your “positive attributes” all you want, but unless you give examples of your “strong communication skills” or “excellent leadership abilities,” the cover letter reader has no reason to believe you. You wouldn’t believe that a payday lender had the best personal loan rates until you actually saw their rates, would you?

Use real life examples to show your skills, but make sure you keep it brief. Pick two or three of your best skills to focus on, and then keep your examples to one or two sentences. That brings me to my next tip.

2. Keep it Short

More people in the job market means more cover letters to read. Keep your cover letter to one page to ensure that the potential employer reads the whole thing. The best cover letters are four paragraphs. As you already know, one of those paragraphs should be examples of your strongest skills. One paragraph should also address the employer directly and address the exact specifications the company is seeking.

3. Keep it 50-50

In fact, your cover letter should be just as much about the employer as it is about you. Include what you know and like about the company and why you want to work for that company based on what it does. If you can directly quote the qualifications the employer is looking for and then give real-life examples to show that you have those qualifications, that’s ideal.

Don’t include things about yourself that have nothing to do with the employer’s needs. If the employer is looking for a good writer, don’t waste his or her time talking about your college scores in calculus.

4. Edit, edit, edit

Not only does it make you look uneducated when you make spelling, grammar or punctuation errors in your cover letter, it makes the employer think that you are careless and unmotivated. Anyone who doesn’t even bother to edit their cover letter for mistakes or ask someone with more grammar knowledge to edit it for them doesn’t come across as being very serious about the job.

Everyone has a friend or family member who is good with grammar and punctuation and, you know, words. Even if the job you are requesting doesn’t require writing, a perfectly spelled and punctuated, grammatically correct letter will show that you are serious.

5. Formal business letter format

It’s very important to use formal, business-letter format in your cover letter. Remember when you learned that format in high school? Remember to not indent paragraphs, and instead leave a line space between each paragraph. You should start off with the recipient’s (employer’s) company name and address, then put the date you wrote or sent your letter, then your own contact information including mailing address, e-mail and phone number.

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