Just about everyone gives the same advice regarding cover letters: Use a template that you can tweak for every job application, just changing the names and the date. All that advice gets you, however, is a cover letter that looks just like everyone else's and does nothing to make your resume rise to the top of the pile. Here are three reasons you should develop the habit of writing every cover letter from scratch.
Writing From Scratch Makes You Take It Seriously
Think about how it feels when you get a form letter or email informing you that you didn't get a job you applied for. It feels as if you weren't taken seriously, as if the company didn't even acknowledge that you are a real human being. As it turns out, that is exactly the way a job recruiter feels when he reads another cover letter that was generated from a predictable template. When you tweak the same template for every job, you send the message you didn't care enough to do your best. Don't treat a company the way you yourself hate being treated. Take your job application and cover letter seriously and sit down to write the letter from scratch.
Writing From Scratch Allows You to Tell a Story
When you sit down to write your cover letter from scratch, think about what story you have to tell that no one else can convey. Maybe you remember visiting the company as a child. Maybe you admire the company's values or start-up story and can talk about how it inspired you. Maybe there is a specific anecdote that allows you to reveal why you want to work at this company. Start your letter with a story that is brief and personal. Humans are wired to respond to stories, and job recruiters are no different. Telling a story can make hiring managers remember you and sets you apart from all the cookie-cutter cover letters in their pile.
Writing From Scratch Helps You Avoid Mistakes
When you use a template as the basis for your cover letter, you run the risk of failing to proofread adequately and making a job-killing mistake. It is all too easy to forget to change the mailing address from the last time you used the template or to mention the wrong company's name in the letter. If you write from scratch, you don't run the risk of doing this and never have to squirm thinking about the hiring manager's reaction when he reads your mistake.
Writing your cover letter from scratch is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out from the crowd. In a tough job market, anything you can do to avoid clichés, boilerplate language and stilted diction only works to your advantage. Show job recruiters you care enough to take your cover letter seriously, and expect to see that they care enough to ask you in for an interview.
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