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How to write a good cover letter

Photo: iStock

A cover letter is a letter that goes with a job application.

Many jobs in the USA ask for one. Writing a good cover letter can help you get a job.

I remember when I first applied for a professional job in Iraq during my third year in college. The manager knew my brother, and he was willing to give me a job for that reason. It is common in my country that you get a job because you know someone, not because you are the right person for the job.

Here in the United States, the job market is highly competitive, and companies want to hire the best fit for the job. A good cover letter and a good resume can help you get noticed by the employer. Let me admit, I have written many bad cover letters and resumes! Here is what I learned:

Avoid a generic cover letter

As an English learner, I found it easy to use a generic cover letter, but that was a mistake. It should be real and appropriate for the job, and a generic one might not be the right fit. Remember, that the purpose of the cover letter is to show the employer that they chose the right person to interview. Before writing it, start with a good review of the job description and the company website to learn enough information about the company and the job. Make sure that your cover letter touches on the skill desired by the company. A native English-speaking friend can assist with reviewing and editing it if needed.

Don’t list the wrong information

Currently, as a manager, I automatically avoid cover letters that include the wrong information just because it’s showing me that the candidate is not serious about the job. Mistakes like that can happen when placing too many applications in a short period of time without taking the time to learn about the company and the job.  Review your application, resume, and cover letter twice before submitting it to the company. 

Keep it brief but mention your strengths

In many cultures, people find it hard to talk about one’s professional accomplishments. I personally still find it difficult to make such claims. However, employers want to learn about the applicant and his/her skills. A cover letter should briefly give facts about how the candidate is the right person for the job. 

Do the extra «optional» work

Job applications seem to be getting longer and longer, and I remember skipping the optional requirements to save time.  That was a mistake. Employers include things in the job application for a reason, so provide it if possible. As a manager, I went back and read applicants’ cover letters before making a decision on which people I call for an interview. 

A good cover letter can serve the applicant well and separate them from the rest of the candidates. It serves as an extra space for the applicant to list any qualities that will advance the work of the company. It will get the employer’s attention and will increase the applicant’s chance of getting a job, but a bad one will limit those chances.       

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