Woman writing her cover letter for a job posting

The cover letter may be a second thought to many job seekers because there's the feeling that employers aren't going to read it. But the truth is you never know if it'll get read or not.

There are certainly employers who just go straight to the resume, but there are also those who will take the time to read it to determine if they'd even move on to the resume. And it is just more professional to have one.

As a job seeker, it's better to be safe than sorry. Don't let a poorly written cover letter be the reason an employer dismisses you as a qualified applicant for the job.

The cover letter is in fact another opportunity to help you sell and impress if you know how to write it effectively. There's a lot of information out there on how to write cover letters effectively, so here we focus on some things you SHOULD NOT do:

1. Don't Waste The Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph is the most important part of the cover letter. It has to get the hiring manager's attention.

Most people start off their cover letter by stating something like, "I saw your posting and I am very excited to apply." Not only is this generic, but it also does not entice the employer to continue to read your cover letter.

If you want to tell them what job opening you are applying for, just put Regarding: <name of position> above your salutation.

2. Don't Tell Your Story (Talk About What You Can Do For Them)

Professional woman writing a cover letter


Many people want to tell their story: I started here and then went there and so on. But the employer does not really care about your story. They want to hear the story of why you're passionate about the opportunity to work there, and why you feel connected to the company in the first place.

A hiring manager looks at a cover letter for an average of 3-5 seconds, so you shouldn't summarize all of your skills and career experiences if you want to stand out. You need to start right off by saying, "This is why I feel connected to your company, and this is what I can do for you as a business-of-one."

3. Don't Have Long Paragraphs

Man writing a cover letter during his job search


Again, the cover letter is quickly scanned, so after the opening paragraph, use bullets and short statements so they are easy to read.

Do not just repeat information you already have on your resume. Since you stated why you're passionate about the company and what you can do for them in the opening paragraph, now it's time to provide some proof statements.

For example:

Driving record levels of sales and market share is what I do best. I have over 10 years of success in technology sales and have consistently been recognized as a top performer. Highlights of my background include: Ranked #1 out of 30 peers for delivering 157% of my sales quota in 2015.

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As a job seeker, don't worry about whether or not the cover letter will be read by the employer. Just know that if it is read, you will leave an impressive mark with your cover letter as you will with your resume.

The cover letter is just another sales tool for you to stand out and win over an employer, hopefully prompting them to contact you to learn more about what you bring to the table. If you follow the cover letter tips above, you'll be sure to impress!

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This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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