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Some job seekers view cover letters as something extra; an add-on that employers just gloss over anyway. After all, isn’t your resume where the most important information is? Yes and no. A well-written cover letter can convey information that may not be as evident in your resume and also provides a stronger case for your fit with the company or position.

While some recruiters don’t take the time to read cover letters, all it takes is one who does. If you have a solid cover letter, you make a better impression – if you didn’t bother putting much effort into it, you just wasted a perfect opportunity to give yourself an edge over the competition. So, what makes a cover letter more effective?

  • You’ve made the effort to personalize it.

Skip the “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” With the Internet at your fingertips, do your best to identify a specific individual to whom you should address your cover letter. Read through the job description, check the company website, visit their LinkedIn page, scour the Internet, or ask around if you have connections. You could even consider calling and simply asking who the hiring manager is.

  • You followed directions.

If the job opening says to upload the cover letter separately, make sure it’s a separate document. If they ask you to specify a salary range, specify a salary range. If they want you to mention where you saw the job opening, tell them how you came across the position. Sometimes employers will put in little quirks just to see who actually reads the job opening the whole way through and follows directions. Be that person.

  • You tailored the content to the role.

Don’t bother with a generic letter that more or less says, “My name is John Doe. I’m applying for ABC position with XYZ company. Attached is my resume.” Do your research. Make sure the points that you are highlighting are relevant to the position you are applying for. Focus on what sets you apart and what you really have to offer. Find out what is important to the company and what skills you need to be successful in the open role. You want to entice a hiring manager to learn more about you by showing them why you are a good fit right off the bat.

  • You focused on the positives.

It’s okay to brag on yourself when applying for a job. Avoid starting a sentence with “Despite not having …” or “Even though I don’t …” Turn those statements around and focus on what you do have to offer. Maybe you don’t have the desired degree, but show that your experience or training makes up for that. Don’t belittle yourself.

  • You made sure it is error-free.

Check, double check, and triple check to ensure that you do not have any spelling or grammar errors in your cover letter. Even if you don’t think anyone will read it, you want to make sure it’s perfect for when someone does. It doesn’t make for a very positive first impression when your cover letter is littered with mistakes. What does that say about your work?