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For active job hunters out there, the best piece of career advice they will receive is to spend time and attention developing a powerful cover letter. Though much of your attention will be on your resume, it should be noted that a cover letter is just as important.

A cover letter acts as an introduction. It is an opportunity to highlight your key accomplishments, it adds focus to your resume and it gives your personality a time to shine. Without a good cover letter, your resume might not even be read.

That might sound like a lot of pressure, but there’s no need to panic. Below, you will find all you need to learn how to write a cover letter that will have hiring managers banging at your door.

Address your letter to a specific person

If a contact name isn’t provided with the job advertisement, this might require a degree of research. Thankfully, the internet is a goldmine of information and LinkedIn will more than likely provide the name of the person you are looking for. Always address the letter to a specific person and avoid “Dear Sir or Madam” at all costs. This is a pet peeve of many a recruiter and will more than likely result in your cover letter heading straight to the waste paper basket.

Keep it short and snappy

The people reading your cover letter are busy people. They have a lot on their hands and chances are they are working their way through dozens, if not hundreds, of cover letters and resumes on the day yours lands on their desk. Due to this, they learn to be efficient with their time.

It is a sad reality that not all of your cover letter is likely to get read, but don’t give your recruiters a chance to get bored with you. Keep it relevant, keep it short, and keep it snappy. Try to keep the letter to a total of three paragraphs, consisting of an introduction, why you’re a good fit for the role, and why the company is a good fit for you.

Question everything you have included. If it is information that can be found in your resume, don’t waste your time mentioning it in your cover letter. David Silverman once said in a Harvard Business Review article that bad cover letters come in three varieties:

  • A recap — your entire resume, in paragraph form
  • Confessional — an attempt to explain away any oddities in your resume
  • Formula — a clear copy-and-paste job that you send to every single job you apply for

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Carefully consider your choice of font

You might want to take this opportunity to be unique and creative, but font isn’t the way to go about this. Don’t use Comic Sans, don’t use a bright color, and don’t capitalize words needlessly. Creativity is great, but remember: this letter needs to be professional. Use a clean, commonplace font, such as Times New Roman or Arial. The best font size is 10 or 12, depending on the font you’re using and the length of your letter, and don’t forget about the importance of white space. A busy letter, crammed with text will be visually exhausting. Indent your paragraphs and make sure they are not too lengthy.

Use power words

Career experts point to the importance of descriptive adjectives in cover letters, but they recommend steering clear of staid, overused words such as ‘responsible’ and ‘organized’. After all, you’re a professional; the recruiter would expect all applicants to have these qualities. One career expert recommends using the words ‘enthusiastic’, ‘passionate’ and ‘integrity’, to really capture the attention of your future employers. When discussing the company. try using the words ‘inspirational’ and ‘admire’.

Include all pertinent keywords

When constructing your cover letter, refer back to the job advertisement. Take note of the keywords used in the document and the skills it calls for. Make sure you use these keywords so that when the hiring manager is skimming your letter, they will instantly take note. Inclusion of these keywords will not only prove that you are appropriate for the role; it will also demonstrate that you are an organized and methodical individual.

Demonstrate your value

Every single person an organization hires represents an investment. Your future company doesn’t just want you to be good at your job; they want to know that you will add value. Stand out from your competition by proposing ways the company can improve their business. This will demonstrate that you have gone to the trouble of researching the organization, but it also shows that you are an innovative individual who constantly thinks outside the box. This is the type of person companies want to invest in.

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About the Author: Kaz Osman is a software developer and director of Career Ninja UK — a career hub that delivers employment news, interview tips, and career advice. Kaz is passionate about helping people find the career of their dreams and providing all the information necessary to climb to the top of their field.

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