When I was a job seeker this summer, I wrote a customized cover letter for every job that I applied to. Although I could crank out cover letters pretty quickly by the end of the summer, the process itself wasn’t terribly efficient. I wondered if I could have done some things differently to make the process easier for myself.
However, form cover letters are no good. Hiring managers can tell when job seekers send them the same letter sent to every other company in your job search, and it doesn’t reflect well on the candidate. So what’s a savvy job seeker to do? Save yourself some time by using a few simple tricks— and by putting the cover letter in perspective.
Not too long ago we touched on whether or not you need a unique resume for each job you apply to. Different than a resume, a customized cover letter is essential. However, some parts of every cover letter you write will be the same. Keep a word processing document with things like your contact information, your closing paragraph, and your signature, all formatted correctly for easy copying into whatever cover letter you are working on at the moment.
Even the body paragraphs of your cover letter can be made into a template of sorts. Assuming a cover letter structure somewhat like this one, pull your three favorite middle paragraphs from some of your favorite cover letters. Keep them handy alongside your other information. The body paragraphs should all display your talents, in some form or another, and so should be relatively interchangeable. Of course, do tweak those paragraphs in order to show how your talents can meet the needs of the specific company. Swap out a few sentences to show how your particular skills match the job description. For example, draw a parallel between your previous fundraising experience and the company’s need for a good event planner.
To keep things fresh, you will probably always want to write a new introductory paragraph for your cover letter. Most of this information will need to be specific to each position—position name, company name, where you heard about the opening, etc.—and this is a great opportunity to start each cover letter in a unique way.
So, about how long should you spend writing a cover letter? Alison Green, of Ask A Manager, suggests job seekers spend about 20 minutes. No sweat, right? That’s less than one TV comedy (there’s one in the primetime lineup you don’t like very much anyway, right?), less time than your lunch break, and less time it takes to make 30-minute brownies! Plus, then you’ll have brownies as a reward for being such a savvy job seeker.
Use these simple tricks to make customized cover letters quicker, and take some of the stress out of writing cover letters. Happy writing!
How do you usually write your cover letters? From scratch? From a template? Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by bearstache
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