Guest post from Brie Weiler Reynolds
For job seekers, making a strong first impression is crucial. With employers spending so little time screening cover letters and resumes before deciding if your application will make it to the next round, it’s imperative to use that precious space well. Your cover letter acts as an introduction between yourself and the employer. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to make customized, quality cover letters to help your application stand out.
Employers and recruiters have spent countless hours screening job applicants in their industry, so they will quickly spot a poorly written or generic cover letter. Start off on the right foot with potential employers by making sure your cover letters are as perfect as possible. These three easy tips will help you ensure your cover letters introduce you to an employer in the best possible light.
Don’t start every sentence with “I.”
Because so much of a cover letter is focused on you, it’s very easy to inadvertently start every sentence with “I.” “I have a degree in physics,” “I’ve worked for 10 years in accounting,” “I’ve been working from home for five years.” But when someone else is reading your letter, this approach starts to sound very self-centered and can easily throw their attention off your qualifications and onto your grammatical choices. After you write the first draft of your cover letter, proofread and change most of your sentences to start with something other than “I.”
Avoid cliches and over-used phrasing.
Phrases like “Please find my resume attached,” “To whom it may concern,” “think outside the box,” and keywords like “organized,” “computer proficient,” “passionate,” “team player,” and “dynamic” add absolutely nothing to your cover letter. They’re so overused that employers read right past them, looking for any hint of originality in your writing. Use that valuable space to say something meaningful, rather than something everyone else is saying, too.
Stop run-on sentences in their tracks.
Make sure your sentences are short and to-the-point by eliminating any run-on sentences. You should have two to three sentences per paragraph, and three to four paragraphs for one cover letter. An easy way to spot run-ons is to read your cover letter out loud. How many times did you have to stop to take a breath? If you find yourself reading a sentence that turns into a paragraph all by itself, you’ve just found a run-on. Try breaking up those long sentences where you see “and” or “but,” as those are natural stopping points.
Small mistakes like these force the employer to pay attention not to your qualifications as a job applicant, but to your poor writing skills. Whether deserved or not, a recruiter may see these mistakes as evidence of a poor work ethic or an inability to perform the job. Be sure an employer has nothing to focus on except what a qualified candidate you are by writing cover letters that are well-proofed and grammatically correct.
Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Director of Online Content at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for telecommuting and flexible job listings. FlexJobs lists thousands of pre-screened, legitimate, and professional-level work-from-home jobs and other types of flexibility like part-time positions, freelancing, and flexible schedules. Brie provides career and job search advice through the FlexJobs Blog and social media.