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How to Write a Cover Letter that Gets Noticed

The cover letter is one of the most important parts of a job application. It introduces you to the recruiter, explains why you're applying and shows off your professionalism. In order to get an interview, you need to do more than provide all of the required information. You need to create a cover letter that will grab a reader's attention.

Use a conversational tone

Cover letters are important, but that doesn't mean you have to use formal language. Recruiters are turned off by awkward sentences full of extra words. Keep your intro short, sweet and confident. "I am excited to read that you're hiring..." is fine and is more likely to get a response than "Consider this cover letter to be a declaration of interest in the advertised position." YAWN.

Grab the recruiter's attention right away

Job recruiters skim cover letters in order to find out the facts. Put something near the beginning of yours that will make them slow down and read your cover letter more thoroughly. One of the best ways to do this is to include a specific, strong accomplishment that is not in your resume. Facts such as, "Last year, my company's profits went up by 40 percent because of changes I implemented" will get recruiters' attention and compel them to actually read your letter.

Demonstrate interest in the company

Don't write a generic letter about how you want to work in the industry. Instead, demonstrate that you want to work for this particular company. Talk about products, services or features you admire that this particular company provides. If you aren't familiar with the company, research it before writing your cover letter so that you can express genuine enthusiasm.

Talk about how you can benefit the company

Many people make the mistake of talking solely about why they want to work there. Make your cover letter stand out by listing specific benefits you will provide to the boss if you are hired.

Avoid generalities such as "I will work hard." Nobody admits on a job application that they like to slack off, so these kinds of statements are meaningless. Instead, state specifics such as, "I can free up your time to deal with clients by providing expert customer service over the phone and keeping your appointment book and paperwork organized." These types of statements demonstrate that you are a one-of-a-kind individual who can provide unique services to the company. The recruiter will take notice.

Check your spelling

So many people miss the obvious step of proofreading their work that correct spelling will automatically make your cover letter stand out. You should proofread manually as well as run a spelling and grammar check on your word processing software to ensure you catch every mistake. Submitting a mistake-free cover letter not only demonstrates your professionalism, but also shows that you take time to check details two qualities for which recruiters are hungry. If you know an editor or copy editor, ask them for a proofread.

Keep it short

The longer your letter is, the less interesting it is to a recruiter. A short letter stands out because it demonstrates respect for the recruiter's time. Try to keep your letter to less than half a page for maximum impact.

Writing an attention-grabbing cover letter can be challenging. If you master this art, however, your application is more likely to be put on a recruiter's desk rather than in his or her trash can.

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UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School