A brief guide to writing exceptional cover letters

These days, a cover letter can be more important than the actual résumé. Follow these tips for success.

I’m not an avid watcher of “The Bachelor,” but I know enough to understand the first impression rose. The contestant who makes a great first impression on the bachelor or bachelorette receives the coveted prize, which is the first impression rose.

The same goes for cover letters and résumé. Good ones can help land you a call back or interview. Here are four tips for creating a standout cover letter:

Find the hiring manager’s name. I read an article that was spot on with regard to addressing the cover letter. You have multiple search engines at your fingertips and a wonderful site called LinkedIn, so you can find a hiring manager’s name in minutes. If you’re having trouble, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask.

Tailor it. If you’re applying for multiple jobs, your cover letter should not be a one-size-fits-all document. Target your cover letter to the specific job/position. Plus, the job description should include characteristics the company is looking for—probably a good idea to include a few of those characteristics if they fit your work style and/or personality.

Keep it short and sweet. I admit it. I enjoy talking about my work and myself—most of us do. That said, don’t use your cover letter to divulge your life story. Keep it short and to the point while letting your personality shine through.

Balance confidence and cockiness. It’s a great feeling when you read a job description and it sounds like the position was made for you. Before you go on and on about how great you are, take a step back and make sure you’re exuding confidence and not sounding cocky or arrogant.

For more tips, take a listen to the podcast I helped out with for the Public Relations Students Society of America. (Side note: I am now well aware that I need to work on my “ums.”)

Erin Pope is a media relations specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She also volunteers her time and supports the PRSA Central Ohio Chapter. You can follow Erin on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn. A version of this story first appeared on the website of the PRSA Central Ohio Chapter.

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