How to Write a Convincing Cover Letter

Posted: July 17, 2018 11:00:00 AM CDT

How to Write a Convincing Cover LetterDear Applicant: Your cover letter can make or break your chances of getting the job. Scary, right?

The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional writer to create a great cover letter. You do need to be mindful of what employers want to know, and how best to present that information to generate a positive connection and response.

These tips from the University of Nebraska at Kearney can guide you in developing an effective cover letter that increases your chances of getting to the top of the applicant pool.

Make your letter visually appealing.

Your cover letter should serve as an introduction and overview rather than a life story, so keep the total length to one page whenever possible. Because people see document structure visually before they read the words, break up longer paragraphs of text so your letter is more digestible to scan and read. Similar to best practices for resumes, always use appropriate fonts, margins, and consistent formatting.

Be upfront about why you want the job.

Being clear about your interest in the job shows that you are a serious candidate with genuine motives for applying. Early in the cover letter, state why you are interested in the position—whether it would be a step up in your career, a better fit for your skillset than your current job, or a way to transition into a new field. Avoid any mention of higher salary or any negative reasons for wanting to seek a new job.

Use keywords from the job description.

Many employers use screening software to ensure that applicants are qualified, but including certain words and phrases in your cover letter is also a good strategy. Identify the main skills or phrases from the job description and include brief overviews about your experience for each one in your cover letter. This shows employers that you understand what the job entails, and they can better connect you with the position.

Address your strengths—but also your shortcomings.

Many employers quickly identify skills or experiences you lack from their list of preferred qualifications. If there are major components of the job that you have not encountered before, find experiences you do have that could translate to the position. This helps address any doubts the employer may have and shows you are ready to problem-solve and grow in anything you have not yet experienced directly.

Pay attention to details.  

Employers sometimes review hundreds of cover letters for a single job opening. Any errors in your cover letter, including spelling and grammar, contact information, or the name of the employer’s company or job title could result in a negative first impression. Be sure to proofread your letter, and then ask someone else to proofread it. They can identify errors as well as any sentences that are unclear or difficult to read. Employers are more likely to be convinced that you are right for the job if their experience reading your cover letter is as smooth as possible.

See cover letter and resume samples, along with additional tips for the job search process, through UNK Academic and Career Services.

By: Rosanna Vail

Category: General, eCampus

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